Departments of Social Protection and Public Expenditure to face Public Accounts Committee over Public Services Card

Departments of Social Protection and Public Expenditure to face Public Accounts Committee over Public Services Card
Regina Doherty

LATEST: Two Government departments are to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions in the wake of the Public Services Card controversy.

It comes after a major investigation by the Data Protection Commission (DPC) found no legal basis for some State uses of the card.

The DPC found there WAS a legal basis in connection with the issuing of PSCs to confirm the identity of a person claiming, receiving or presenting for payment of a social welfare benefit. However, the DPC found there was NO legal basis for the issuing of PSCs for the purposes of transactions between individuals and state bodies other than the Department of Social Protection.

This includes, for example, requiring PSCc to issue driver’s licences or passports, or for people to appeal against decisions about the provision of school transport.

In addition, the DPC said the Department of Social Protection's indefinite retention of documents supplied by citizens in the process of applying for a PSC must stop, as it contravenes the 1988 and 2003 Data Protection Acts.

Finally, the DPC also said the sceme was not transparent enough in how the Department of Social Protection communicated information to the public about the uses of their data.

(The DPC's full statement on its findings can be read here.)

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is due to outline her findings to the Public Accounts Committee next month.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon
Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

Chair of the committee Sean Fleming says some government officials will follow soon after:

"We'll be bringing the Department of Employment (Affairs) and Social Protection before the Public ACcounts Committee because they're the people who issued these cards.

"However, we also need to being the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - or DPER - (before the committee), because these cards are being used by all government departments and several government agencies, and DPER are the department over all the other departments."

EARLIER: Sinn Féin call on Minister to answer 'serious questions' about Public Services Card controversy

Sinn Féin is calling on the Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty to speak out on the Public Services Card controversy.

Ms Doherty has come under fire after the Data Protection Commission found the card is in breach of data protection laws.

It says any data illegally held by the State on more than 3.2 million cardholders has to be destroyed.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, John Brady, is calling on Minister Doherty to give some answers:

Mr Brady said: "It's imperative that the Minister breaks her silence and that she gives her commitment to implement in full the findings of the report and answers to serious questions as to who gave the go-ahead given the level of concerns being highlighted since 2011 for the expansion of the use of the Public Service Card."

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