Feeds

Senior officials now in frame for HMRC data fiasco

Union says security crisis should mean job cut halt

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

UK Identity Crisis Senior officials were involved in the decision to post the UK's child benefit database on unencrypted CDs, it emerged overnight.

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, said decisions were made at a higher level and that the NAO asked for the data be "desensitised" but this was rejected on grounds of expense. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs sent 25m records on two unencrypted CDs three times; the second envelope never arrived at the National Audit Office and is still missing.

As the scandal broke earlier this week, government spinners insisted that the error was down to a junior official at the Washington, Tyne and Wear office, acting well outside their remit.

But Bourn yesterday told a secret session of the Public Accounts Committee that it was a senior manager at HMRC authorised the release of the data and that his email on the data sharing was cc'd to an assistant director.

The Tories described the data loss disaster as evidence of "systemic failure, not individual error by a junior official".

A spokeswoman for HMRC said: "We have no comment to make on individual officials. There is a police investigation ongoing so we cannot comment."

A junior official from the Child Benefit IT department has reportedly been suspended and sent to a nearby hotel with a minder in order to protect his or her identity.

Unions, meanwhile, have simultaneously slammed the scapegoating of a junior member of staff and blamed the government for stretching HMRC to breaking point.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said in a statement that the government's determination to slash 25,000 jobs within the next five years had placed a huge strain on resources.

Since March 2005 the PCS said that the government had made 13,000 job cuts at HMRC with a further 12,500 planned by 2011.

It said: "With additional security checks expected to be put in place for people claiming and making enquiries about Child Benefit we urge the government to put extra resources into HMRC rather than continuing with cutting jobs."

PCS union rep Graham Steel, who has been in talks with the HMRC over the ongoing job cuts on the Capgemini Aspire contract where up to 600 UK workers are expected to take compulsory redundancy, told El Reg that "it was only a matter of time before something went wrong."

He said that the chancellor's attempts to "save pennies" had seriously backfired.

"That's why we don't like seeing work off-shored. It raises all kinds of security issues about sensitive data and the worry is that it could get into the wrong hands."

Asked if the union would support the official at the centre of the data loss storm, Steel said that it was union policy to "represent them just the same as any other case."

Chancellor Alistair Darling also said yesterday that the disaster actually strengthened arguments in favour of ID cards. He rejected calls from the Tories that the government should think again. Darling also denied the recent merger of Revenue and Customs, and associated job losses, had anything to do with the disastrous data giveaway.

There's more from the Guardian here.®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bladerunner sequel might actually be good. Harrison Ford is in it
Go ahead, you're all clear, kid... Sorry, wrong film
Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix
Everyone else in Europe compensates us - why can't you?
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
Forget Hillary, HP's ex CARLY FIORINA 'wants to be next US Prez'
Former CEO has political ambitions again, according to Washington DC sources
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.