The Role of the IGIS

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security  is an independent office–holder appointed to review the activities of Australia’s intelligence agencies. The functions and powers of the Inspectors-General are set out in the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986.

The primary role of the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is to assist Ministers in overseeing and reviewing the activities of Commonwealth intelligence agencies for legality and propriety and for consistency with human rights. This means:

  • Legality: intelligence agencies operate within and comply with the legislation governing their activities, and with ministerial guidelines and directives.

  • Propriety: the use of powers by intelligence agencies is appropriate and acceptable in the circumstances.

  • Human rights: the activities of intelligence agencies are consistent with and respect human rights.

There are six national intelligence agencies which IGIS reviews and oversees:

Each agency has its own national security purpose, powers and procedures, and collectively they are often referred to as the Australian Intelligence Community.

IGIS also assists in assuring the Parliament and the Australian public that intelligence and security agencies, including their operational activities, are open to scrutiny. Independence is fundamental to the role of IGIS and it is the policy of IGIS to make public as much information as possible about the work and the findings, within secrecy requirements.

IGIS conducts its review and oversight of intelligence agencies through inspections, inquiries, and investigations into complaints.

Inspections of agencies activities and processes are designed to monitor agencies’ governance, compliance and control frameworks and to identify issues. Inquiries can be conducted into matters of concern, and th IGIS has strong independent investigative powers similar to those of a royal commission. These include the power to compel persons to answer questions and produce documents, to take sworn evidence, and to enter agency premises.

IGIS can also investigate complaints made by members of the public or intelligence agency staff, about the activities of intelligence agencies.

For more about the work of IGIS, its public findings and reports, see What We Do.

IGIS oversight of operational intelligence activities of the agencies is complemented by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Australian National Audit Office which review and oversee other governance aspects of agencies.