Search for Irish Water data boss begins

Irish Water has finally started a hunt for a data protection manager, months after it started the process of demanding and recording customers’ PPS numbers.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy described seeking a data protection manager at this point as “a cart before the horse situation that is typical of Irish Water”.

“It looks like this has not been thought out at all. We saw an example last week of people’s bank details being sent to their landlords, which undermines confidence in Irish Water. This is not a minor issue,” the Kildare North TD warned.

The advertisement for the position, posted online yesterday, comes as ministers defended the right of Irish Water to seek people’s PPS numbers, following reports that staff in one Government department had expressed concerns about handing over details.

Among the requirements for the role, the successful candidate must:

- Assess, monitor and control risks arising from transfer of information to and from external organisations;

- Develop and implement an assurance plan over the critical information security and data protection risks;

- Provide training to all employees, contractors or other third parties;

- Develop and implement an information security and data protection policy, processes and procedures throughout Irish Water which fulfil the requirements of the corresponding Ervia group policy and procedures, legislation and best practice.

Ms Murphy claimed that Irish Water has no statutory basis under which it can collect PPS numbers as Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has yet to formally finalise the arrangement under which the utility is authorised to collect the data. “The minister of social protection is supposed to sign an order to allow Irish Water to seek PPS numbers, but I understand she has yet to do that.”

The Irish Examiner submitted a number of questions to Irish Water arising from the advertisement but did not receive a reply at time of going to press.

Meanwhile, no definitive Government decision on further alleviation measures for households facing water charges is expected in the next week.

The Government’s four-person Economic Management Council will meet today and examine a menu of options to help households with payments. These are expected to include a special capped family payment for households where adult children are living at home. An extension of the assessed charge payment period beyond next summer is also set to be discussed.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly will appear before the council.

The Tánaiste’s spokesman said last night that it “might take a little bit longer” than beyond next week for Cabinet to agree on solutions to concerns.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s spokesman said people deserved “clarity and certainty” on what they would be charged for water and the Cabinet was looking at this.

Earlier, Communications Minister Alex White conceded the Irish Water project was not ready. “I will agree with you that people have responded very, very strongly to this, that we have, I think, tried to bite off too much too quickly in relation to this project.”

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