Average fraud saving of €1.16 for each public services card issued
Fresh concern about State sharing of citizens’ data after publication of new strategy
Public services cards, the issuing of which will have cost €60 million by the end of the year, were first provided to social welfare customers and people claiming certain State benefits.
An identity card currently held by more than two million people has so far prevented just €2.5million worth of welfare fraud, figures from the Department of Social Protection show.
Public services cards, the issuing of which will have cost €60 million by the end of the year, were first provided to social welfare customers and people claiming certain State benefits. They are now being rolled out to all citizens and the Government has said they will be required for certain services, such as obtaining passports and driving licences.
Official (anti-fraud) savings up to October as a result of registering customers through face-to-face process for the card were €2.58 million, according to departmental records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Some 2.23 million cards had been issued at that time.
This means the amount saved due to capturing alleged fraud when registering for the card at that time was just under €1.16 per card issued.
The department has an annual budget of almost €20 billion. It has said separately it has saved more than €500 million due to other control measures to detect fraud and overpayments.
Some 2.71 million of the cards had been issued up to the end of July and the department said it planned to meet the target of 3 million by the end of the year. It has issued about 50,000 cards a month on average this year.
At a meeting with Government officials as late as last September, the Data Protection Commissioner expressed concern “at the increasing expansion across the public sector of the use of the PPSN (PPS number), and by legislative means other than the primary Social Welfare Acts”.
The commissioner’s officials also expressed concern about “transparency and public awareness” of the card project.
They also reveal the Road Safety Authority “refused” to implement a plan to allow driving licences and public services cards be issued as part of the same process, until a public campaign was put in place.
Privacy advocates and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have expressed concerns that the means by which the card has been introduced make it a “national ID card by default”.
Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) expressed renewed concern on Monday about the Government’s plans to more widely share citizens’ data following the publication of the e-Government Strategy 2017-2020 last week.
It said the public services card project would result in “the linking up of private, intimate details of Irish citizens’ lives across all sections of government, including the education system, gardaí and the health service”.
“There is no legal framework to provide for this to be done in a fair, safe and legal manner,” the organisation said.
The proposed Data Sharing and Governance Bill would provide some basis for the sharing of data, but that this was only in the earliest stages of development.
DRI said the Government had promised the public services card would not be mandatory but it had now put forward a plan that “will force every citizen, young or old, rich or poor to have this card”.
Tens of thousands of public servants and contractors could have access to some of the national databases and there was “no plan for how this access would be controlled”.
It noted that just last week, a member of An Garda Síochána was convicted of illegally accessing private data about individuals from the Garda Pulse system and that there had been hundreds of privacy breaches at the Department of Social Protection.
DRI said there were also “external threats” and that Sweden was currently “reeling” from a scandal where data stored in the cloud as part of a unified national system had resulted in a major nationwide data breach and a government-level scandal.