Are the policies, administration, and budgets of the intelligence services subject to effective and independent oversight?
New Zealand score: 75/100
There is considerable and regular undue influence in the oversight of the intelligence service’s policies, administration, and budgets. It is likely its mandate results in limited power and resources to carry out the oversight.
A parliamentary committee or independent body (e.g., appointed by PM) is designated to scrutinise the intelligence service’s policies, administration, and budgets. It may occasionally be subject to undue influence from the executive or the military or its mandate is not always matched by the body’s powers and resources.
A parliamentary committee or independent body (e.g., appointed by PM) is designated to scrutinise the intelligence service’s policies, administration, and budgets. It functions without undue influence from the executive or the military. Its mandate is matched by the body’s powers and resources.
Oversight mechanisms are set out in the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 . The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is an independent body specifically legislated to ensure that intelligence and security agencies conduct themselves lawfully and with propriety. The IGIS also ensures complaints relating to the intelligence and security agencies are independently investigated and advises the Government on matters relating to oversight of the intelligence and security agencies . The IGIS’ duties are complemented by the Intelligence and Security Committee, comprising a proportional representation of members of Parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, and the Minister Responsible for the Intelligence and Security Agencies . The Committee has a broad range of powers and can examine policy, administration, and expenditure, to include annual reviews and may request the IGIS to undertake an enquiry – to date no such request has occurred [4, 5]. The release of information disclosed to the Committee is tightly controlled . This, together with the fact that the ISC for the 52nd Parliament (dissolved on 6 September 2020) included the Minister in Charge of the agencies, does raise concerns over independence since the Minister in Charge is essentially overseeing his/her own agencies.
The ISC has legislative powers to review the budgets, and scrutinises the intelligence and security budgets during the year, particularly the periods May-June and September-November. However, the efficacy of this remains unknown outside of the Committee, and Audit New Zealand, who conduct audits of the agencies’ end-of-year financial statements on behalf of the Auditor-General . As the ISC’s annual review to Parliament are normally one page statements, the thoroughness of these remain publicly unknown .
1. Intelligence and Security Act 2017, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0010/latest/DLM6920823.html
2. Intelligence and Security Act 2017, Part 6, Section 156, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0010/latest/DLM6921166.html
3. New Zealand Intelligence Community, “Oversight”, https://www.nzic.govt.nz/oversight/
4. Intelligence and Security Act 2017, Part 6, Section 193, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0010/latest/DLM6921217.html
5. Interview with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, 25 November 2020, via email.
6. Intelligence and Security Act 2017, Part 6, Section 204, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0010/latest/DLM6921227.html
7. Interview with a member of the New Zealand Intelligence Community, 30 September 2020, via email.
8. See for example, Intelligence and Security Committee, “2018/19 Annual review of the New Zealand Security and Intelligence Service”, Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee (February 2020), https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_94817/c121bd3db36f90e7ac3b537def81c79d52cfa140
New Zealand score: 50/100
The oversight function has little to no influence over the intelligence services.
The oversight function does not have regular access to classified information. It may meet less frequently than every 6 months.
The oversight function has access to classified information and meets at least every 6 months to review budget and expenditures, personnel issues, and policies of the intelligence services. Findings are rarely published.
The oversight function has access to classified information and meets at least every 6 months to review budget and expenditures, personnel issues, and policies of the intelligence services. Though meetings are held behind closed doors, a summary of findings is published.
The oversight function has access to classified information and meets at least every 2 months to review budget and expenditures, personnel issues, and policies of the intelligence services. Though meetings are held behind closed doors, a summary of findings is published.
According to the New Zealand Intelligence Community, the intelligence agencies’ classified annual reports to the ISC contain complete annual financial statements and show key areas of expenditure. According to Section 221 of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017 (ISA), both agencies are required to provide copies of their annual reports to the Minister Responsible for the GCSB/NZSIS, and in turn to the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) as soon as practicable after the end of the financial year. Due to the classified nature of intelligence, the report released to Parliament omits detailed financial statements and are replaced with a broader statement recording the total expenditure incurred by each agency for the financial year against the agency’s appropriation for that financial year. This is done in accordance with Section 221 of the ISA, and Section 45(E) of the Public Finance Act [1, 2, 3].
Financial reporting provided to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) within the agencies’ classified annual reports includes all standard financial reporting undertaken by government agencies, including capital costs and injections, and operating expenses broken down into cost categories. This reporting follows generally accepted accounting standards. No information that would be provided by other agencies is omitted by the agencies when reporting to ISC, only from publicly accessible documents. Regarding the Public Finance Act 1989, and reporting of financial and performance requirements to the House of Representatives, the intelligence and security agencies generally fulfil all reporting requirements required by other public sector agencies. The primary exception to this is that detailed information is not tabled publicly with the House of Representatives, and is instead provided to the ISC. This includes Statements of Strategic Intent, and full financial and performance reports. This is to protect sensitive information from becoming public, not to reduce the level of accountability and scrutiny applied to the agencies. This information is also reviewed by the Office of the Auditor General and available for review by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. [4, 5, 6, 11].
Thus, while “complete financial statements” are provided to the ISC, these omit some of the regular categories required of other government departments. For example, statements of forecast service performance are to be agreed by the minister responsible for the appropriation, and a statement of service performance is provided within their annual report.
A second layer of oversight may be provided by IGIS, which, in theory, has a right to access all information but practically they are mindful of the “right to know”. This means IGIS must proactively seek information to fulfil functions of the position .
On occasions there are difficulties for the office of the IGIS in identifying that relevant security records exist, or in accessing them, because they are subject to special administrative protections put in place by the agencies which permit only specified user access. On at least one occasion, the right to access was delayed due to privacy concerns when the IGIS requested access to staff email accounts related to an operational matter under investigation, as occurred during an inquiry into the role of GCSB and NZSIS in Afghanistan . A measure that increases effectiveness over budget scrutiny is the Parliament Financial Scrutiny Cycle, which is a continuous cycle that goes for two and a half years.  However, as per the Public Finance Act Amendment 2004, and the Public Finance Act 1989, the Intelligence Agencies do not have to abide by all the steps of the Financial Scrutiny Cycle, namely in providing future spending processes. According to the IGIS, at present, they and the ISC meet twice a year, and outside of this the two do not normally meet. However, it should be noted that IGIS does meet with the Prime Minister and Minister Responsible, who are both on the ISC, but this does not occur in their committee capacity . Lastly, unlike IGIS reports and reviews, there is limited evidence available in the public sphere to validate the ISC’s effectiveness.
1. Interview with a member of the New Zealand Intelligence Community, 30 September 2020, via email.
2. Intelligence and Security Act 2017, Part 7, Section 221, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2017/0010/latest/DLM6921254.html
3. Public Finance Act 1989, Part 4, Section 45E, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0044/latest/DLM162700.html
4. Public Finance Amendment Act 2004, Part 4, Section 45E, http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2004/0113/latest/whole.html#DLM328445
5. Public Finance Act, Section 45E (4), https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0044/latest/DLM162700.html
6. Public Finance Act, Section 45A (d and e), https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0044/latest/DLM162489.html#DLM162489
7. Interview with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security and the Deputy Inspector of Intelligence and Security, 12 August 2020.
8. Madeleine Laracy, Report of Inquiry into the role of the GCSB and the NZSIS in relation to certain specific events in Afghanistan, Public Report (June 2020), pp. 48-9, http://www.igis.govt.nz/assets/Inquiries/Inquiry-into-events-in-Afghanistan.pdf
9. New Zealand Parliament, “Parliament’s Financial Scrutiny Cycle”, https://www.parliament.nz/media/6234/financialcyclepostera3_v82.pdf
10. Interview with the Inspector General of Intelligence, 25 November 2020, via email.
11. Ministry of Defence (New Zealand). Comments on Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) 2020.
Compare scores by country
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|Country||21a. Independence||21b. Effectiveness|
|Albania||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Algeria||0 / 100||NA|
|Angola||0 / 100||NA|
|Argentina||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Armenia||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Australia||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Azerbaijan||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Bahrain||0 / 100||NA|
|Bangladesh||0 / 100||NA|
|Belgium||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Botswana||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Brazil||75 / 100||0 / 100|
|Burkina Faso||50 / 100||NEI|
|Cameroon||0 / 100||NA|
|Canada||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Chile||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|China||0 / 100||NA|
|Colombia||NEI||50 / 100|
|Cote d'Ivoire||0 / 100||NA|
|Denmark||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Egypt||0 / 100||NA|
|Estonia||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Finland||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|France||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Germany||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Ghana||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Greece||25 / 100||0 / 100|
|Hungary||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|India||0 / 100||NA|
|Indonesia||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|Iran||0 / 100||NA|
|Iraq||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|Israel||50 / 100||100 / 100|
|Italy||75 / 100||100 / 100|
|Japan||25 / 100||0 / 100|
|Jordan||0 / 100||NA|
|Kenya||75 / 100||25 / 100|
|Kosovo||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Kuwait||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Latvia||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Lebanon||0 / 100||NA|
|Lithuania||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Malaysia||0 / 100||NA|
|Mali||0 / 100||NA|
|Mexico||0 / 100||50 / 100|
|Montenegro||50 / 100||75 / 100|
|Morocco||0 / 100||NA|
|Myanmar||0 / 100||NA|
|Netherlands||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|New Zealand||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Niger||0 / 100||NA|
|Nigeria||50 / 100||25 / 100|
|North Macedonia||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Norway||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Oman||0 / 100||NA|
|Palestine||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Philippines||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Poland||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Portugal||75 / 100||50 / 100|
|Qatar||0 / 100||NA|
|Russia||25 / 100||50 / 100|
|Saudi Arabia||0 / 100||NA|
|Serbia||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|Singapore||0 / 100||NEI|
|South Africa||25 / 100||25 / 100|
|South Korea||100 / 100||25 / 100|
|South Sudan||0 / 100||0 / 100|
|Spain||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Sudan||0 / 100||NA|
|Sweden||100 / 100||100 / 100|
|Switzerland||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Taiwan||100 / 100||75 / 100|
|Thailand||0 / 100||NA|
|Tunisia||0 / 100||NA|
|Turkey||0 / 100||NA|
|Uganda||50 / 100||0 / 100|
|Ukraine||50 / 100||50 / 100|
|United Arab Emirates||0 / 100||NA|
|United Kingdom||75 / 100||75 / 100|
|United States||100 / 100||50 / 100|
|Venezuela||0 / 100||NA|
|Zimbabwe||0 / 100||NA|