This report reviews the activities the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security undertook during the last year to monitor Australia's six intelligence agencies.
The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security started the reporting period with two major inquiries underway, the Habib inquiry and the Defence Security Authority inquiry, each of which was conducted as a result of a request by the Prime Minister. Although both of these inquiries were completed by the end of 2011, the level of activity did not drop off as a further three inquiries commenced. All inquiries were finalised by the end of the reporting period.
A key performance indicator of the office is ‘the extent to which there has been change within the agencies as a result of the activities of the office’.
The Habib inquiry resulted in significant changes to agency policies and the Defence Security Authority inquiry led to a substantial overhaul of the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency. In addition, a wide range of inspection activities and discussions with agencies have brought about smaller but still significant changes to agency policies and procedures.
The staff in the AIC agencies are highly professional with a strong compliance culture. My office has a strong relationship with each office and I have found informal communication channels throughout the year have worked particularly well to alert me to any sensitive operational matters.
A review of the performance of the office including interviews with AIC agency heads concluded that ‘the office has established trust and confidence in its capabilities, at the same time maintaining diligent exercise of its responsibilities’.
The significant level of inquiry activity placed pressures on resources: we needed to be flexible and continually prioritise our inspection and complaint-handling work.
Although the overall staffing level did not change, the increasing requirement for high-level legal advice resulted in the recruitment of an SES officer. Assistant Inspector-General, Mr Jake Blight, joined the office in January 2012.
Staff turnover has remained low. A staff survey was conducted for the first time in the office – overall the results showed a high level of staff satisfaction but indicated some areas for improvement.
A new function of the office has proved to be particularly challenging. Providing expert evidence to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Freedom of Information and Archives Act matters relating to national security used a significant amount of senior-level resources in the second half of the reporting period. This function will have to be managed carefully so as not to compromise the other work of the office.