The ICAC can hold public inquiries, compulsory examinations or both. (The terms public inquiry and compulsory examination replace public hearing and private hearing respectively, in accordance with amendments to the ICAC Act passed by the NSW Parliament in April 2005.) When considering whether to hold public inquiries and/or compulsory examinations, the ICAC must take into account the public interest, as required under section 31 of the ICAC Act.

Only the Commissioner or an Assistant Commissioner may conduct public inquiries or compulsory examinations.

Any witness at an ICAC public inquiry or compulsory examination is generally permitted legal representation. Any person or group with a substantial and direct interest in the matter may also be allowed representation in a public inquiry.

The decision to hold a compulsory examination may include circumstances in which it is necessary to safeguard witnesses or the integrity of investigations.

Public inquiries are an important tool in exposing corruption. The public inquiry process can also increase the public's confidence in the integrity of investigations. In deciding to hold a public inquiry, the Commissioner must consider the public interest, as required under section 31 of the ICAC Act. In making that determination, the Commission is to consider the following: the benefit of exposing to the public, and making it aware, of corrupt conduct; the seriousness of the allegation or complaint being investigated; any risk of undue prejudice to a person’s reputation (including prejudice that might arise from not holding an inquiry); whether the public interest in exposing the matter is outweighed by the public interest in preserving the privacy of the persons concerned.

Public inquiries are advertised on the ICAC website to advise when the inquiry will be held and the scope and purpose of the investigation. The current investigations section of this website also provides this information.