IGIS can conduct independent inquiries into matters relating to intelligence agencies. Independent inquiries enable IGIS to fully investigate a matter, consider its legality, propriety and appropriate regard for human rights, and make recommendations to remedy any issues identified.
Under the IGIS Act, the Inspector-General may initiate their own inquiry, as a routine inquiry or in response to an identified issue or a complaint, or a Minister may refer an inquiry.
The Inspector-General has a range of strong coercive inquiry powers, similar to those of a Royal Commission, and certain immunities and protections for those giving evidence which are provided under the IGIS Act. These inquiry powers include:
- the power to compel the production of information and documents,
- to enter premises occupied or used by a Commonwealth agency,
- to issue notices to persons to attend before the IGIS to answer questions relevant to the inquiry, and
- to administer an oath or affirmation when taking such evidence.
Inquiries are generally conducted in private to provide full examination of all classified or sensitive information. At the end of an inquiry IGIS provides a report with findings and recommendations to the responsible Minister. Where possible, an unclassified report is released.
IGIS may also conduct a preliminary inquiry in order to decide whether to initiate an inquiry. A preliminary inquiry may be initiated by the Inspector-General, either in response to a complaint or as a result of identifying an issue of concern.
Information on completed inquiries and preliminary inquiries are included in the IGIS annual report.