Government to publish commissioner’s report on Public Services Card online

Government to publish commissioner’s report on Public Services Card online
Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

The Government says it plans to publish the Data Protection Commission’s report on the Public Services Card (PSC) online.

The report outlines how it may be illegal for any Government department, except for the Department of Social Protection, to insist that members of the public obtain a PSC to access a public service.

The cards are used to access a number of benefits including pensions, treatment, and other Government services.

The Government has repeatedly said since the launch of the programme in 2011 that asking for the PSC to access state services is not a breach of any data protection laws.

But Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon published her conclusions on the legality of the PSC and found that the retention of documentation on up to four million citizens was unlawful.

Following receipt of the final report last Thursday, August 15, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection confirmed its intention to publish the report on its website, “together with its own response, once a full consideration of the report is complete”.

The department says it is “reviewing the report together with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This process is not yet complete and is expected to take another week or so”.

“While the department understands that some may wish for us to respond sooner, it should be noted that this is a comprehensive report and requires significant attention,” a statement said.

The department also denied reports that it has had the report for a year.

“The Data Protection Commission (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 statement said.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has come under sustained criticism over Government transparency, but she insists she is giving careful consideration to the report.

Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)
Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“Both myself and my department take very seriously the findings of the Data Protection Commission and the good work it does,” she said.

“For that reason it is important that bodies that are subject to findings by the commission give very careful consideration to those findings. 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.

“As soon as our consideration of this final report is complete, the department will publish its response along with the report and any other relevant information on its website and I will speak then at greater length on the matter.”

The cost of rolling out the PSC initiative was around €60m.

- Press Association

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