No date for release of ‘highly critical’ Public Services Card report

Data Protection Commissioner found data is unlawfully held on 3.2 million people

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe in 2016. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe in 2016. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Data Protection Commission says it regrets the decision made by the Department of Social Protection not to immediately publish a highly critical report into the Public Services Card (PSC).

The department said it would only publish the report, which it received from the DPC last week, once it has completed a “full consideration” of its findings, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is unclear how long this will take.

The DPC requested the report be published within a week of it being submitted, which would have seen it made public yesterday. Under the terms of the legislation which governed the commission’s investigation, the department is the only body which can publish the report.

“The DPC regrets that the report will not be published today,” the commission said in a statement.

“While it is accepted that a reasonable period of time to examine the report and consider how best to address the findings made is required, it is not clear how publication of the report at this point would cut across that assessment.”

It comes after the department pushed back against the suggestion that it received the report over a year ago, and said there were meaningful differences between the draft version and the final version.

In what sources perceived as a pointed comment, the department said: “the revised and final version of the report was received last Thursday. It contains a significant volume of additional analysis, a number of the findings have been changed, and some have been removed”.

The commission report found the department had unlawfully retained information gathered on 3.2 million citizens during the roll-out of the card, and would be forced to delete it.

It also found there was no lawful basis to insist the card be used to access services other than those directly administered by the department, limiting the scope of the project considerably beyond what had been envisaged.

The department said it is reviewing the report together with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General. “This process is not yet complete and is expected to take another week or so,” the department said in a statement.

“The DPC provided a draft investigation report in August of last year at the mid-point of a two year investigation. It came with instructions that it was provided on a strictly confidential basis and was not to be shared with any third parties.”

The draft report, the department says, contained preliminary findings and asked for submissions on same, as well as asking a number of questions.

In a statement, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said “careful consideration” of the report was needed before publication.

“Such careful consideration is also necessary in order to be fair to the commission and to ensure that when we do speak that the public hears a properly prepared response”.