Following on from last year's Datagate fiasco, when HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) lost the personal details of 25 million people, HMRC has recently appointed 37 staff to protect information.
Jane Kennedy, financial secretary to the Treasury, in a written parliamentary answer stated that every one of HMRC's business units now has a data guardian "to strengthen the management of the department's data assets".
She said that 24 of these guardians are based in London, two in Tyne and Wear (where the data was lost) and 11 based in other locations.
Ms Kennedy noted that "guidance was provided on the competencies, experience and knowledge that the role would require".
"Support for the HMRC data guardians has included awareness events, written material and access to additional support and guidance of departmental security specialists."
The minister for disabled people and MP for Stirling, Anne McGuire, stated that stronger arrangements are now in place, for discs sent to the National Audit Office.
"Rigorous courier arrangements and a requirement that physical transfers of data must have the specific authority of a member of the senior civil service [are in practice]."
The question arises as to whether this is merely an exercise in window dressing, or a genuine and well thought through plan (proactive rather than reactive) by HMRC to strengthen its internal security procedures.
Are these "Guardians" well qualified IT professionals, or junior civil servants with low level IT qualifications?
The fact that "support" and "training" is being offered to the guardians indicates that they are not that well qualified for the task.
The civil service, given the well publicised disasters re IT (eg failed NHS system, datagate etc) has a well deserved reputation for being less than well endowed with people who have substantial, professional IT, computing and systems experience.
Why do they not make greater use of encrypted mail, and abandon the high risk courier option?
It seems very much that this is a window dressing exercise, designed to show a stable door being closed. Regrettably the horse has long since bolted.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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