Ardern accuses ministry of 'lax security culture'

Last updated 08:23 29/11/2012
Jacinda Ardern
Olivia Hemus
JACINDA ARDERN: THe Labour MP Jacinda Ardern claims there are ongoing concerns about a "lax culture towards security" within the Social Development Ministry.

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The Social Development Ministry has defended its digital security during a grilling by MPs.

Chief executive Brendan Boyle appeared before the social services select committee yesterday, defending the ministry on welfare reform, privacy breaches and claims he secretly sacked Work and Income's former boss.

It was the ministry's first financial review since last month's privacy breach, in which it was revealed the public could access Work and Income clients' private details through information kiosks.

A damning review by Deloitte found the ministry was alerted to the problem but failed to fix it.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern fired many of yesterday's salvoes, claiming there was ongoing concern about a "lax culture towards security" within the ministry. The attitude went beyond human error, with some ministry projects having obvious security flaws, she said.

She cited beneficiary payment cards, which were sent out with their pin numbers printed on the cards.

"No-one is suggesting that is a secure way to operate a payment card."

Mr Boyle replied that there was a strong awareness of security within the ministry, which had been improved further since the review. He hinted a wider Deloitte review on the ministry's IT security - expected to be published soon - would show there was not a lax attitude.

"The indication I have had from Deloitte this week . . . is that there is a very strong awareness of information security and a strong culture around it."

However, the report, which the ministry had not yet received, would probably reveal "room for improvement".

Ms Ardern pressed Mr Boyle about a payout to former Work and Income boss Janet Grossman, who resigned in June only 11 months after being headhunted by the ministry.

She suggested Ms Grossman was sacked rather than quitting, citing a $97,000 termination figure in the ministry's annual report.

Mr Boyle said the figure covered other senior managers as well as Ms Grossman, and was for outstanding leave and sick pay, not termination.

"Let me state very carefully for the record that she resigned. I don't like the implications that something else happens; that she was sacked."

The review comes amid sweeping welfare reforms, which will redraw benefit categories and put more emphasis on reducing the ministry's "long- term liabilities".

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- The Dominion Post

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