This section explains procedural fairness for security vetting candidates - your right to a fair process.
When you’re a candidate for a security clearance, you have the right to be treated fairly. To make sure the vetting process is fair, the NZSIS will:
- be thorough and objective when they gather and assess information about you
- tell you if they find information that is concerning and give you a chance to respond
- be clear and objective when they give their final recommendation to your sponsoring agency.
You can expect the NZSIS to be thorough and objective
To achieve a fair outcome and protect your organisation’s assets, the NZSIS must be thorough and objective when they vet you.
What being thorough means
To be thorough, the NZSIS must take all reasonable steps to get information that is relevant to your application, if it’s available.
If they don’t have enough information or they’re concerned about anything they find, they must take steps to get more information. Those steps could include asking for:
- records or statements from your employers
- an expert opinion to understand an issue better.
Making sure information is reliable, accurate, and up to date
They need reliable, accurate, and up to date information to assess your application thoroughly.
When information is missing or not available, they must try and fill the gaps. That might mean asking for a formal statement from an employer or asking you to help piece together information.
For each bit of information the NZSIS gathers, they need to know if it is reliable and up to date. If they’ve got any doubts or unanswered questions, they must try to get the details they need.
If they can’t confirm that the information is reliable and accurate, they can’t use it. When they ask for information, they must:
- request it formally — it must be documented. This might be by email.
- ask the right people — people who have the authority to provide the information.
For example, if they need information from an employer, they’ll request it formally.
What being objective means
Being objective means the NZSIS can’t rely on opinions, impressions, or interpretations — they must seek facts. Their objectivity helps to protect you from discrimination.
Checking and verifying information
During the vetting process, the NZSIS must check and verify all the information they receive.
For example, if a referee gives a negative opinion, the NZSIS won’t include that opinion in their assessment unless there are facts to back it up. The same rule applies to positive statements. If a referee shares positive impressions, the NZSIS must still verify the information. They also can’t rely on a referee’s status or reputation.
To be fair to vetting candidates and uphold security, the NZSIS must be unbiased.
Making sure expert views are well-informed, reasoned, and relevant
If an issue comes up during vetting and the NZSIS are not expert in that area, they must get a qualified expert to give their view.
For example, if a complex financial issue came up, the NZSIS would ask a financial expert for their view.
Expert advice has to be well-informed, reasoned, and relevant to security vetting before it can be included. Experts must:
- have access to all the relevant information that the NZSIS has found
- say which information and criteria they’ve used to form their views
- explain how their views relate to the NZSIS’s security risk criteria.
Expert views must only be used to assess security risks — not for any other purpose.
You have the right to respond to any concerns the NZSIS has
If the NZSIS is concerned about any information they find during the vetting process, they must tell you and give you the chance to respond.
You have the right to see information they’re concerned about
You usually have the right to see any information the NZSIS is concerned about and their assessment of the security risks. In rare cases, they can withhold information. For example, if revealing the information or source would threaten national security or someone’s personal safety. Even then, the NZSIS must give you access to as much information as possible.
You have the right to respond, be represented, and present more information
You must be given enough time to respond to any information that might have a negative effect on your application for a security clearance. Normally you will have 10 working days to respond. You can respond in person, in writing, or through a representative, such as a lawyer. You have the right to present more information if you think it’s relevant.
If the NZSIS has used an expert view in their assessment, you have the right to get a different expert to give their view.
The NZSIS must assess your response thoroughly and fairly
The NZSIS must assess your response carefully and with an open mind. If your response includes new information, they must investigate it.
If you raise legal objections or new points from an expert, the NZSIS must seek legal or expert help to consider your response properly.
If any expert information you provide is not complete or doesn’t address security criteria, the NZSIS must let you know and give you the chance to fill those gaps.
If two experts reach different views, the NZSIS assesses each view, considering:
- the level of expertise each expert has
- the thoroughness of each expert assessment
- the connection between each expert view and any security risk.
The NZSIS must also tell you about any conflicting views from experts and give you a chance to respond. If the NZSIS finds any new information that could have a negative effect on your application, you’ll again have the chance to respond.
You can expect the NZSIS’s final recommendation to be clear and objective
The NZSIS assesses all the verified information they get about you against their security criteria. Then they decide whether to recommend you for a security clearance or not.
Their final recommendation to your sponsoring agency must say:
- how they’ve assessed the information about you against security criteria
- what conclusions they reached
- which facts they’ve based their assessments on.
They must also note and explain any information that is contradictory or has been ruled out. If you responded to any concerns raised during the vetting process, the final recommendation should explain whether your response has been accepted or rejected, and why.
If you have been adversely affected by any act, omission, practice, policy or procedure of the NZSIS, you have the statutory right to make a complaint to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
Complaints must be made in writing and addressed to:
Inspector General of Intelligence and Security
c/- the Registrar of the High Court at Wellington
More information is available at the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security website.
Page last modified: 4/05/2022