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Activity 4 Public Interest Disclosures

ABOUT PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURES

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) is intended to promote integrity and accountability within the Commonwealth public sector, including by encouraging public interest disclosures by public officials, providing appropriate support to disclosers to ensure that they are not subject to adverse consequences as a result of their disclosures and ensuring that disclosures by public officials are properly investigated and addressed.

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: IGIS Corporate Plan 2017-2021, p. 6.

QUANTITATIVE PERFORMANCE MEASURES

Figure 2.7: Timeliness of response to public interest disclosures

Total number of PID
Acknowledged within 5 business days
Average number of business days for acknowledgement
(TARGET: 90% acknowledged within 5 business days)
7
7
2

Figure 2.8: Public interest disclosures by agency and source

Agency
Number of
public interest
disclosures
From public
From
intelligence agency
employee or ex-employee
ASIO
4
0
4
ASIS
2
0
2
ASD
0
0
0
AGO
1
0
1
DIO
0
0
0
ONA
0
0
0

IGIS'S HANDLING OF PUBLIC INTEREST DISCLOSURES

The office has key responsibilities under the PID scheme, including:

  • 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 seven public interest disclosures handled during the reporting period, four fewer than in the previous reporting period.

Most of the seven public interest disclosures raised allegations of maladministration covering a range of issues, including termination of employment, conduct relating to the withdrawal of security clearances and conduct relating to internal investigations into staffing matters.

PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS

An ASIO staff member alleged a lack of procedural fairness during a review of their suitability to retain a Positive Vetting security clearance. The individual said ASIO had provided written advice which indicated there would be an opportunity to respond to ASIO's preliminary views and that opportunity was not provided. Instead, ASIO's investigators had moved directly to the final outcome.

The office's investigation included a review of all relevant records and discussions with senior staff responsible for the process. While the investigation substantiated the claim that procedural fairness had not been afforded to the individual in that ASIO had not followed the procedure outlined in their written advice, IGIS staff were pleased to see that, as soon as ASIO was alerted to the PID, ASIO proposed to address the problem by offering the staff member additional opportunities to provide written and oral responses to the concerns raised. After the staff member provided additional information, ASIO initiated further investigation to inform their decision about the staff member's suitability to retain a PV clearance. We assess ASIO's remedial actions were appropriate.

OVERSEEING THE OPERATION OF THE PID SCHEME IN THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

In accordance with section 44(1A)(b) of the PID Act, the intelligence agencies are required to inform the Inspector-General when a PID is allocated for investigation by an intelligence agency and must meet other reporting obligations.

The office was informed of two PIDs received by the intelligence agencies in the reporting period, one from ASIO and one from ASD.

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

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