Establishing an independent Inspector-General of Defence

16/11/2021 Publication

The Government is currently undertaking targeted consultation on the proposals to establish an independent Inspector-General of Defence. It has reached out to seek the views of interested stakeholders with a range of perspectives, including legal experts, academics, Māori representatives, veterans’ organisations, non-governmental organisations, the Inquiry authors, and the authors of the book Hit and Run.

See below for more information and a copy of the consultation document.

Background

In July 2020, Sir Terence Arnold QC and Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC presented their findings from the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and related matters(external link) (the Inquiry).

The Government accepted in principle(external link) all four recommendations of the Inquiry, of which the establishment of an independent Inspector-General of Defence (IGD) was one.

The other recommendations relate to:

  • the establishment of an Expert Review Group to ensure the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) organisational structure, record-keeping and retrieval processes are in accordance with international best practice. This Group reported back to the Minister in September 2021.
  • The promulgation of a Defence Force Order setting out how allegations of civilian casualties should be dealt with in-theatre and in New Zealand. Defence Force Order 35(external link) was promulgated in January 2021.
  • The setting of effective detention policies and procedures in relation to people detained by, or with the involvement of, New Zealand forces overseas and how allegations of torture by such persons are treated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is leading the work to implement this recommendation.

Establishment of the Inspector-General of Defence

A Senior Officials’ Group with members from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission, Ministry of Justice, Crown Law Office, Ministry of Defence and the NZDF was set up to develop a plan for establishment of an IGD. The terms of reference for the Officials' Group is available here: https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/terms-of-reference-for-igd-senior-officials-steering-group(external link).

In February 2021, the Government considered the plan for the establishment of an independent IGD to provide oversight of the NZDF and asked that the Ministry of Defence lead the work with support from the Senior Officials’ Steering Group. The February 2021 Cabinet documents are available here: https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/progress-update-on-the-establishment-of-an-independent-inspector-general-of-defence(external link).

In November 2021, the Government agreed in-principle, subject to the outcome of targeted consultation, to the proposed scope, functions, powers and form of the IGD. This means the Government supports the proposals, but wants to consider feedback from others before making final decisions. The November 2021 Cabinet documents are available here: https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/establishing-an-independent-inspector-general-of-defence(external link).

At a high-level, the proposals are to establish the IGD as an independent statutory officer with investigatory and assurance functions to complement and strengthen the existing system of oversight over the NZDF.

The Government is currently undertaking targeted consultation on the proposals with a range of relevant stakeholders. The consultation document is available here: https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/proposals-for-establishing-an-independent-inspector-general-of-defence(external link).

Next steps for this work

The targeted consultation process will finish on 13 December 2021. The proposals are expected to be refined based on the feedback received, and the Government intends to make final policy decisions on the proposals in 2022.

If the final proposals are accepted by the Government, new legislation would be needed to establish the IGD. If new legislation was introduced, the public would have an opportunity to provide feedback during the Select Committee process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the IGD intended to do?

The current proposal is for the IGD to have three functions:

  • an investigation function: with appropriate supporting powers, to scrutinise and respond to issues that have occurred;

  • an assessment function: to assess processes, procedures and policies, and identify gaps to prevent issues from occurring in the future; and

  • an enquiry function: to request information to support the IGD’s understanding of the NZDF’s operational activities in an evolving defence context.

What will the IGD be able to look into?

It is proposed that the IGD would be able to look into all NZDF activities. It would not be able to look into the activities of Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, which is a semi-autonomous unit within the NZDF.

Veteran’s Affairs is accountable to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and unlike the rest of the NZDF, operates under the requirements of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014, rather than the Defence Act 1990.

Who will the IGD be independent from?

It is proposed that the IGD would operate independently including from the NZDF, the Ministry of Defence, and Ministers. Strong independence ensures that the IGD would not be overly influenced by or reliant on others when initiating or undertaking its work. This level of independence would also give Ministers and the public reassurance about the integrity of the IGD’s work.

How much will it cost to establish the IGD and to run annually?

The Budget for the establishment of the IDG is yet to be determined. The funding detail will depend on the final proposals agreed by the Government following targeted consultation.

When will the IGD be established?

New legislation (i.e. a bill) would need to be passed to establish the proposed IGD.

At this early stage it is estimated that the IGD would be up and running within a year of a bill passing. This timing is subject to the Government deciding to introduce a bill to the House of Representatives, and then the bill being passed into law.

Who is the Government consulting with on the proposals to establish an IGD?

The Government has reached out to seek views of interested stakeholders, with a range of diverse perspectives. This includes relevant legal experts and academics, Māori representatives, veterans’ organisations, non-governmental organisations, the Inquiry authors, and the authors of the book Hit and Run.

The Government isn’t consulting with me, and I have a view – what should I do?

If you would like to submit comments now, the proposed design of the IGD is set out in the consultation document. Page 30 of the consultation document sets out the specific questions the Government is seeking feedback on. You can email your comments to IGDconsultation@defence.govt.nz. In your email, please specify if you do not wish your name, personal information or your submission to be made public (see page 3 of the consultation document for more details). The consultation period ends on 13 December 2021.

After the targeted consultation period is over and if new legislation (i.e. a bill) is introduced next year, you and any other interested parties would have an opportunity to have a say on the proposals as part of the Select Committee process. Individuals and organisations are able to make written and oral submissions to the Select Committee that is considering the bill. The Select Committee would then consider what submitters have told them, along with advice from officials, and share the committee’s findings and recommendations with Parliament.