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Performance summary

Facilitating the investigation of public interest disclosures relating to intelligence agencies and undertaking other responsibilities under the PID Act

Performance criteria: timeliness of our response to public interest disclosures.

Target: 90% of public interest disclosures acknowledged within five business days.

Source: Corporate Plan 2016-2010

Quantitative performance measures

Figure 2.8: Timeliness of response to public interest disclosures

NUMBER OF PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURES AND TIMELINESS OF RESPONSE
TARGET: 90% acknowledged within 5 business days

Total number of PID

Acknowledged within
5 business days

Average number of business
days for acknowledgement

11

75%

6

Figure 2.9: Public interest disclosures by agency and source

COMPLAINTS BY AGENCY AND SOURCE – PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURES

Agency

Number of public
interest disclosures*

From public

From intelligence agency
employee or ex-employee**

ASIO

2

0

2

ASIS

2

0

2

ASD

5

1

4

AGO

1

0

1

DIO

2

1

1

ONA

1

0

1

*One disclosure concerned more than one agency (ASD, AGO and DIO) and did not meet the threshold for allocation

**Two anonymous disclosures were presumed to have been made by an intelligence agency employee or ex-employee

A former ASD contractor claimed that his security clearance was delayed after he made an internal complaint. The claim was considered to be a public interest disclosure and was referred by the IGIS to ASD to conduct an investigation into the claims.

ASD's investigation found no evidence of wrong conduct, finding that the discloser had contributed to the delay by failing to attend several appointments for an obligatory psychological assessment. ASD informed the IGIS of its finding and provided a copy of its investigation report. The agency also sent a copy of the report to the discloser, as required by section 51(4) of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

The discloser immediately contacted IGIS to dispute the agency's finding, saying he had only been told of one appointment for psychological assessment, which he attended. In response, IGIS asked the agency to re-examine the evidence. In conducting its second investigation, ASD discovered that typographical errors had existed in the discloser's contact details until an observant staff member noticed discrepancies and successfully made contact with the discloser to offer an appointment. Previous appointments for psychological assessment had been sent to an incorrect email address and were never received by the discloser.

ASD met with IGIS to discuss the circumstances of the case and propose options for resolving the issues identified through its investigation. ASD and IGIS developed an agreed course of action to address the identified issues. ASD sent a written apology to the discloser and explained the errors that had occurred in the first investigation. The agency also advised the discloser that he remained eligible for future work with ASD.

The discloser expressed appreciation for IGIS involvement in ensuring his concerns were properly considered, and was satisfied with ASD's explanation that the delay was due to error rather than a reprisal for his internal complaint.

IGIS's handling of public interest disclosures

Key IGIS responsibilities under the PID scheme include:

  • receiving, and, where appropriate, investigating disclosures about suspected wrongdoing within the intelligence agencies
  • assisting current or former public officials who work for, or who previously worked for, the intelligence agencies in relation to the operation of the PID Act
  • assisting the intelligence agencies in meeting their responsibilities under the PID Act, including through education and awareness activities
  • overseeing the operation of the PID scheme in the intelligence agencies.

There were eleven public interest disclosures handled during the reporting period, almost three times the number received in each of the two preceding reporting periods.

Most of the eleven public interest disclosures raised allegations of maladministration covering a range of issues, including staff recruitment and termination, allowances, the conduct of security clearances, and conduct relating to the withdrawal of security clearances. One disclosure related to conduct endangering health, namely systemic bullying, and another to the contravention of a law of the Commonwealth.

Overseeing the operation of the PID scheme in the intelligence agencies

In accordance with s 44(1A)(b) of the PID Act, the intelligence agencies are required to inform IGIS when a public interest disclosure is allocated for investigation by an intelligence agency, and meet other reporting obligations.

IGIS was informed of nine PIDs received by the intelligence agencies in the reporting period. Five of these were from ASD, and four from ASIO.

IGIS also has a role in meeting annual reporting obligations by collecting and collating the intelligence agencies' responses to the Commonwealth Ombudsman's annual PID survey. IGIS performs this role to ensure the protection of classified details relating to the intelligence agencies.

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