FAQs

What does the IGIS do

The IGIS assists the Minister responsible (currently the Hon Christopher Finlayson QC) for the intelligence and security agencies, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau, to ensure that their activities are lawful. The IGIS ensures the legality of the intelligence and security agencies’ activities through regular inspections of warrants and authorisations, monitoring and reviewing their operational activities and through specific inquiries (on the IGIS’s own motion, or at the request of the Prime Minister or the Minister) into their compliance with the law or the propriety of particular activities. In order to conduct these inspections and inquiries the IGIS has extensive powers to obtain information and documents. The IGIS also independently investigates complaints about the actions of the intelligence and security agencies.

History of the role of IGIS

The role of an Inspector-General is not new, in fact one of the first Inspectors-General was a Prussian military officer (Friedrich von Steuben) employed by George Washington in the United States. He was appointed in 1778 during the American Civil War and, as Inspectors-General do, he quickly set about organising an own motion inquiry – as a result of his recommendations housing, sanitation, administration and weaponry supply greatly improved.

New Zealand’s first Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was appointed in 1996. The role was established to replace the position of Commissioner of Security Appeals. It has a more limited range of activity than Baron von Steuben had.

There have been three previous Inspectors-General prior to the current office holder. Originally the position of Inspector-General could be held only by a retired judge but amendments to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act in 2013 removed this requirement and also created the position of Deputy Inspector-General. Prior to these amendments the Inspector-General had been supported solely by a part-time secretary. Now, the Inspector-General and Deputy Inspector-General have a small team of investigative and administrative staff.

Who is the IGIS?

Cheryl Gwyn was appointed as Inspector-General for a three year term on 5 May 2014. Cheryl graduated from the University of Auckland in 1979 with a BA in Political Studies and English and an LLB (Hons). She then spent six years working as a knife hand at a Hawkes Bay freezing works, followed by a period as an investigator with the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator, before starting her legal career. She was a litigation partner at Chapman Tripp and then at Russell McVeagh. Since 2001 Cheryl has worked in the public service, as Deputy Secretary for Justice and then as Deputy Solicitor-General at the Crown Law Office, before being appointed as Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. She has extensive experience in public law matters and in human rights law.

Who appoints the IGIS?

The Inspector-General is appointed by the Governor-General on advice from the Prime Minister who must consult with the Intelligence and Security Committee on the appointment. The Inspector-General serves a three year term and may be reappointed only once. The Inspector-General has similar protections against removal from office as apply to judges. The IGIS may be removed from office by the Governor-General for disability affecting performance of duty, bankruptcy, neglect of duty or misconduct.

Is there anyone else other than the IGIS who reviews or oversees the Intelligence Community?

The Prime Minister is the Minister of National Security and Intelligence and is responsible for the overall policy settings of the intelligence and security sector, chairs the National Security Committee of Cabinet and chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Minister in charge of the NZSIS (external link) and the Minister responsible for the GCSB (external link) exercise Ministerial oversight over the two agencies and approve applications for warrants and authorisations under the NZSIS and GCSB Acts.

The Commissioner of Security Warrants, currently Sir Bruce Robertson KNZM QC, also has a role in authorising intelligence warrants for the NZSIS to carry out certain activities and GCSB warrants and authorisations to intercept communications or access information infrastructures.

The Intelligence and Security Committee can examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the agencies and conduct an annual financial review. It can also consider any matter referred to it by the Prime Minister. The Committee may not inquire into any matter that is within the IGIS’s jurisdiction. The Auditor-General, Privacy Commissioner and Chief Ombudsman also have a role in respect of particular aspects of the activities of the NZSIS and the GCSB.

Is the IGIS independent from the NZSIS and GCSB?

The IGIS is an independent office and is not part of the NZSIS or GCSB or of any other intelligence or security agency. The Inspector-General and Deputy Inspector-General are independent statutory office holders and are not subject to general direction by the Prime Minister or other Ministers.

What information can the IGIS access?

During routine inspections and reviews the IGIS has full access and right of entry to all the records of the NZSIS and GCSB. These agencies routinely provide IGIS staff with access to requested records for the purposes of inspection, review or in response to complaints to the IGIS.

During an inquiry the IGIS may:

Compel the giving of information or production of documents that the IGIS deems relevant to the inquiry

Take evidence from witnesses in private

Summon and examine under oath any person who in the opinion of the IGIS is able to give information relevant to the inquiry

When can the IGIS initiate own-motion inquiries?

The IGIS may inquire into any matter that relates to NZSIS or GCSB compliance with the law or the propriety of particular activities.

Does the IGIS report publicly?

Following any inquiry the IGIS must report her conclusions and recommendations to the Minister and the chief executive of the relevant agency. As soon as practicable after reporting a copy of the report must be made publicly available – please see Publications page – (subject to the requirement not to disclose publicly any matters that may be prejudicial to security, the identities of employees of the intelligence and security agencies, information that would endanger a person’s safety, or information received in confidence from a foreign government or international organisation). The IGIS also prepares an annual report that, once submitted to Parliament, is available to the public.

Who does the IGIS report to?

The IGIS’s role is to assist the Minister who is responsible for the intelligence and security agencies to ensure that their activities are lawful. This naturally means that the IGIS keeps the Minister informed of her work and any findings about the lawfulness or propriety of the agencies’ activities. In addition, the IGIS’s general programme of work is approved by the Minister.

That does not mean that the Minister must approve each specific item of the Office’s work, such as each inquiry into a complaint or each inquiry that the IGIS initiates of her own motion. The IGIS must investigate all complaints independently and it is implicit in the power for the IGIS to initiate other inquiries that the approval of the Minister is not required.

Can the IGIS receive complaints and from whom?

The IGIS may receive complaints from New Zealand persons and any employee or former employee of the intelligence and security agencies, where that person has been adversely affected by an act, omission, policy or practice of the intelligence and security agencies – please see Complaints page for more detail.

What is the IGIS’s role under the Protected Disclosures Act?

The IGIS is the only appropriate authority under the Protected Disclosures Act, to whom an employee (which includes former employees, volunteers and secondees) of an intelligence and security agency may make a protected disclosure.

Media contact

For any media enquiries please contact Antony Byers, Director, Ministerial Relations, Ministry of Justice. Antony.Byers@justice.govt.nz or + 64 4 466 2103

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