IGIS laments investigation staff moonlighting in corporate duties

By Harley Dennett

February 23, 2016

Margaret Stone

Justice Margaret Stone, the new inspector general of intelligence and security, raised the difficulties of being a small independent agency under the Commonwealth’s new corporate accountability requirements.

Since taking up the IGIS mantle in August last year, monitoring the activities of six Australian Intelligence Community bodies to ensure they meet legal and legislative requirements, Stone has already lost one of her 16 staff members to the more well-resourced and staffed AIC bodies she scrutinises.

This presents a problem not seen in larger agencies, because Stone revealed her investigation staff must also fulfil the corporate services that would, in any other agency or department, normally be the responsibility of specialist HR, legal and accounting staff.

“Since my appointment I have also been addressing the challenges of running a very small agency, which is a separate non-corporate entity for the purpose of the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act, must comply with the legislative and policy requirements that also apply to much larger agencies.

“My office [now] has a staff of 15 and a budget of just over $3 million. Presently we have only one part-time accountant and an executive assistant. All other corporate responsibilities being carried out by investigation staff in addition to their core functions. Shaping the office workforce to ensure the right balance of corporate and investigations staff is one of my key priorities.”

Physically, the IGIS office sits within the same building as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and administratively falls within the same portfolio. But that’s where the overlap ends.

Stone also said it was “always a difficult problem” coping with the time required for security clearances to be approved. Since the last recruitment round in 2015, she is still waiting on one staff member’s clearance.

Stone said work of the AIC is “complex and diverse, operating in an environment that is challenging and growing more challenging every day.” The work of her investigations team is often the only assurance for the parliament, the media and the public that the AIC is operating within the law.

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