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.

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

In deciding to hold a public inquiry, the Commissioner presiding over the matter must consider the public interest, as required under section 31 of the ICAC Act.

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. Despite the advantages of public inquiries, there are also disadvantages. One is the risk of the public inquiry process having detrimental effects on the reputations of those involved.

Generally, public inquiries are advertised in major newspapers and relevant local newspapers to advise when the inquiry will be held and the scope and purpose of the investigation. The current investigations section of this site also provides this information.