The year in review - highlights
The reporting period was a time of intense activity for the office. The Government introduced a national security legislative reform program with amendments that substantially affected the powers of the intelligence agencies and oversight arrangements. The office was invited to provide submissions and appear before four PJCIS inquiries related to these reforms.
The office had to design and implement new oversight programs as a result of this new legislation. The changes required a re-prioritisation of our work program and a comprehensive revision of existing inspection methodology to focus on the use of the new powers and higher risk activities. By the end of the reporting period the office had new programs in place and had inspected the agencies' use of the new and amended powers.
The Government announced increased funding for the office as part of the National Security – additional counter-terrorism funding measure. The additional funding allowed for the recruitment of five additional staff members to enable the office to continue to provide a comprehensive and effective oversight program. The Government also announced that the office would be exempt from the efficiency dividend from 2015–16. The office had no difficulty in attracting skilled and experienced applicants for the positions. During the year the office engaged a number of new recruits and also secondees from other agencies. An external provider was engaged to deliver advanced investigation training to most staff and the internal training program continued.
In July 2014 the Inspector-General was invited to speak at the 9th International Intelligence Review Agency Conference held in London. A key theme of the conference was how oversight regimes needed to be more transparent to enhance public credibility. In the two years since the previous conference many agencies had developed outwardly focused media strategies and were exploring ways of informing the public about their work.
The challenge of ensuring that oversight is transparent continues in Australia. The office conducted two major inquiries: one into ASIS and the other into activities of ASD. Details are given elsewhere in this report. It is not possible to publish detailed reports about these inquiries because to do so could prejudice security. It is difficult for the office to continue to demonstrate rigorous and credible oversight given the strict limitations on public reporting. Both inquiries found areas of concern within the agencies and both resulted in a number of recommendations. ASIS accepted all recommendations and has been diligent in their implementation. The final report of the ASD inquiry was provided to ASD after the conclusion of the present reporting period. ASD's response to the inquiry is a subject for the next annual report. The Inspector-General is required to continue to monitor and report on the adequacy of any actions that are taken by the agencies in response to these inquiries.