Data Protection Commission warns of urgent need for new senior staff

Pre-budget submission earlier this year outlined ‘cascading pressures and constraints’

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) warned of a desperate need to appoint new senior staff to ensure it could speed up its decision-making.

The DPC has repeatedly been accused of being too slow in resolving cases involving Big Tech. In a pre-budget submission this year, it warned of “cascading pressures and constraints” that were slowing down its work.

In the submission ahead of Budget 2023, the commission also sought an extra €1.25 million in its legal budget – a 50 per cent increase. It said legal fees now comprised a “significant proportion” of its non-pay expenditure.

It also said the DPC had built up a pipeline of major inquiries involving multinational companies, many of which were now reaching “maturity”.


The submission said: “These inquiries can be highly contentious, with the likelihood that any decision issued will be appealed by one of the parties involved.”

However, the greatest concern was over a lack of senior management staff, appointments which it said “cannot be forestalled any longer”.

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It called for an urgent meeting with the Department of Public Expenditure, warning that its management structure needed “radical reassessment”.

The submission said: “The four principal officer and four assistant principal officer roles that have been requested in this submission already have a wealth of work waiting on them.

“The DPC simply requests the budgetary allocation necessary to mobilise these posts.”

It said the jobs needed to be filled urgently if the office was to “stand any chance of absorbing the radical escalation in its regulatory function”.

The submission also warned of the ongoing risks of not having enough staff to fulfil its role.

It said: “It is still the case that inadequate staff numbers at senior management level mean that there is not the labour force in place to ensure that all planned projects are operationalised.

“This can result in budgetary underspend and postponements; a state of affairs that the Irish regulator cannot mitigate much longer.”

The DPC was also critical of being required to return any unspent budget at the end of the fiscal year, even when delays in spending were not its fault.

It said there were delays in the Public Appointments Service’s ability to run competitions to fill senior roles which slowed down the rate at which it could “onboard staff”.

It also explained how a deficit of senior managers had meant “certain critical projects” had to be put on hold because there was nobody to “steer them”.

There is not the labour force in place to ensure that all planned projects are operationalised

The DPC flagged issues as well with recruiting suitably qualified staff, especially people with legal expertise in data protection and GDPR.

It said: “Given the disparity between public sector wages and those offered by private sector competitors, the DPC has found itself at a material disadvantage when competing in what is a niche and in-demand pool of expertise.”

The pre-budget submission also flagged ongoing costs relating to its planned move to a new headquarters in Dublin city centre.

It said its rent bill for 2023 would be €388,000 for existing accommodation at Trinity Point, as well as €1.05 million for its new headquarters on Pembroke Row, which it hoped to move into next July.

One-off costs associated with the new office’s refurbishment are expected to total €573,000 with just over €320,000 allocated for office desks and chairs, €12,500 for “white goods”, and €157,000 to fit out conference rooms.

A further €699,000 will be needed to install IT and telephone equipment, while €58,000 will be required for security consultancy.

Asked about the records, a spokesman for the DPC said he had nothing further to add as the submission was self-explanatory.