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Annual performance statement

Introductory statement

I, Margaret Stone, as the accountable authority of the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, present the 2015–16 annual performance statement of the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and incorporating the additional requirements under section 35 of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986. In my opinion, these annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of the entity, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Margaret Stone signature

The Hon Margaret Stone

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

Entity purpose

The purpose of the IGIS is to assist Ministers in the oversight and review of the Australian intelligence agencies, to provide assurance to Parliament and the public about the scrutiny of the operation of those agencies, and to assist in investigating intelligence and security matters.1

In performing this role, the IGIS, who is an independent statutory officer established by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 (IGIS Act), reviews the activities of the Australian intelligence agencies:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
  • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
  • Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)
  • Office of National Assessments (ONA).

1 OIGIS Corporate Plan 2015--19, p. 3.

The 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements provided a strategic direction statement with one planned outcome for the office, being:

independent assurance for the Prime Minister, senior ministers and Parliament as to whether Australia's intelligence and security agencies act legally and with propriety by inspecting, inquiring into and reporting on their activities.

The key strategies by which the office sought to achieve this outcome were:

  • to continue and expand the entity's inspection activities, which involve proactively monitoring and reviewing the activities of the intelligence agencies
  • where appropriate, to initiate 'own motion' inquiries and investigate complaints or referrals about the activities of the intelligence agencies
  • at the request of the Prime Minister, to inquire into an intelligence and security matter relating to any Commonwealth agency.

Results

Performance criterion 1: The timeliness of completion of inquiries or complaint resolution

Criterion source

Corporate Plan 2015–19; Programme 1.1, 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements, p. 243.

Result

One inquiry was concluded during 2015–16 with a duration of 157 days. This duration was considered to be reasonably proportionate to the level of complexity of the inquiry. The final report was provided to ASD in July 2015.

Of the complaints received during 2015–16, 95 per cent were acknowledged within five business days (Target: 90 per cent) and were investigated in a timely manner.

All four Public Interest Disclosure matters received in 2015–16 were acknowledged within five business days and were investigated in a timely manner.

Performance criterion 2: The level of acceptance by intelligence agencies, complainants and ministers of findings and recommendations of inquiries conducted

Criterion source

Corporate Plan 2015–19; Programme 1.1, 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements, p. 243.

Result

The inquiry report included four (classified) recommendations, however it did not find any failure of ASD to comply with the law, nor did it reveal any systemic failures of governance or improper activity. As requested, ASD responded to the report in October 2015.

ASD accepted the principles underlying the recommendations and the Inspector-General is satisfied that ASD has appropriate ongoing arrangements in place in relation to the subject of the inquiry and was responsive to the recommendations.

Performance criterion 3: The breadth and depth of inspection work undertaken

Criterion source

Corporate Plan 2015–19; Programme 1.1, 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements, p. 243.

Result

Inspections were a key area of focus during the reporting period. The office's existing programme of inspections was maintained and several new types of inspection and inspection projects were undertaken. Inspection activities were prioritised based on a risk management approach, within the resources available to the office.

Performance criterion 4: The extent to which there has been change within the agencies as a result of activities of OIGIS

Criterion source

Corporate Plan 2015–19; Programme 1.1, 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements, p. 243.

Result

  • Routine reporting arrangements between ASD and the IGIS have been revised to ensure appropriate levels of ongoing oversight in relation to the subject of the inquiry.
  • Detailed inspections are a key means by which the IGIS provides independent assurance that the Australian intelligence and security agencies are acting legally and with propriety. While the majority of inspections conducted in 2015–16 found no issues of concern, those that were found attracted further scrutiny. The office encouraged modification of agency practices in order to prevent reoccurrence.
  • Our complaint investigation activities frequently provide opportunities to effect change in the intelligence agencies. In most cases, complaints can be resolved quite quickly and efficiently by IGIS staff speaking to the relevant agency or looking at their records.
  • Similarly, our investigation of Public Interest Disclosure matters provides opportunities to effect change in the intelligence agencies where instances of impropriety or illegality are uncovered. No instances of wrongdoing on behalf of the intelligence agencies were uncovered by the IGIS's investigation of Public Interest Disclosures during 2015–16.
  • Engagement with parliamentary committees and similar bodies provides opportunities for the Inspector-General to influence the development of the policies and legislation under which the intelligence agencies operate. During 2015–16, the IGIS participated in inquiries conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, reviewed evidence provided by ASIO to the coronial inquest into the Lindt Café siege, and contributed to the statutory review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013. The Inspector-General also participated in a Senate estimates hearing.
  • The IGIS's engagement and cooperation with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Australian Information Commissioner also assists in enhancing oversight and promoting good practice in the agencies. During the reporting period, the IGIS responded to two requests from the Information Commissioner and was notified by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of one new case where the IGIS may be requested to give evidence.
  • The office continued to undertake presentations to new and existing staff of the intelligence agencies, with 13 such presentations delivered in 2015–16. By raising awareness of the accountability framework and promoting understanding of agency responsibilities, this ongoing contact helps to encourage a culture of lawfulness and propriety in the agencies.
  • The office also expanded its outreach activities to external groups in 2015–16, particularly 'thought leaders' in the community such as judges, academics and public interest groups. The office delivered 14 such presentations during 2015–16. This outreach is intended to help raise the profile of the office and enhance public assurance in the oversight it provides.
  • During 2015–16, staff from the office met regularly with the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, continued to liaise with the Australian Human Rights Commission, and held meetings with the New Zealand Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and a representative of the Canadian Privy Council Office.
  • Our cooperative relationship with other accountability and integrity agencies helps promote strong and seamless oversight across government, aiding the office in its role of providing independent assurance of the legality and propriety of the actions of the Australian intelligence agencies.

Analysis of performance against the entity purpose

Our results show that the office continued to perform strongly in 2015–16 in support of its purpose of assisting Ministers in the oversight and review of the Australian intelligence agencies, assuring the Parliament and the public about the scrutiny of the operation of those agencies, and assisting in investigating intelligence and security matters.

A key area of focus during 2015–16 was the ongoing development of the office's inspection programme, with new inspections being carried out in addition to a comprehensive regime of existing inspections being maintained. Detailed inspections are a core means of ensuring legality and propriety of the agencies' activities. While the majority of inspections found no issues of concern, when issues were found they resulted in further scrutiny and we observed changes to agency practices in order to prevent reoccurrence. As with previous years, inspection activities were given priority on a risk management approach, within the resources available to us.

We also continued to handle many complaints during 2015–16, however there was an overall decrease in the number of complaints compared to previous years due to a decrease in the number of visa-related complaints. There was a slight increase in the number of other complaints and contacts with our office. There were also four Public Interest Disclosures handled by our office in 2015–16, the same number as the previous year. Although a majority of the complaints were resolved without identifying significant issues, there were a number which raised credible concerns which were also able to be resolved.

One inquiry was completed during the early part of the reporting period. No new matters arising from inspections or complaints were considered by the Inspector-General to warrant investigation by means of a formal inquiry, and there were also no matters referred to the IGIS by a minister for inquiry. A number of matters were resolved administratively during the reporting period and the Inspector-General is considering possible inquiries for commencement in the 2016–17 financial year.

During 2015–16, the Inspector-General also focused on expanding the outreach activities of the office. This involved presentations to staff of intelligence agencies as well as an increasing emphasis on engaging through forums and meetings with the broader Australian community. This external engagement is intended to increase public understanding of the role of the IGIS in overseeing and reviewing the actions of the intelligence and security agencies. We also continued our regular liaison with other accountability and integrity agencies, in particular the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Human Rights Commission.