Winz mistake sees man given prisoner's details

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012

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A Whanganui man was sent home from his local Work and Income office with the private details of a recently released prisoner mistakenly attached to a list of job vacancies.

Two other clients were also given copies of the information.

The revelation is the latest in a string of security blunders by the Social Development Ministry, but the Government insists there is not a systematic problem.

The man, 29, went into a Work and Income office last Friday to hand in an application for a job at a meatworks. Before leaving he was given a list of jobs in the area, about nine pages in total, he said.

It was not until he returned home that he realised a page, containing the private information of another beneficiary, was stapled to the back. He did not know the other client.

"It had another guy's name, address, client details, saying that he's just gotten out of prison."

About an hour after he returned home, the man was rung by the Work and Income office and someone drove out to pick up the piece of paper.

He was happy to hand it over, but was worried about the security of his own information.

"I'm living up to my work obligations to them. I think they should be living up to their work obligations to us, especially keeping our information, and stuff like that, private."

The piece of paper was handed to him, not accessed through a kiosk, he said.

An independent review into the ministry's information systems is taking place after secure information was able to be accessed through public kiosks in Work and Income offices.

Work and Income head Debbie Power said staff quickly realised the sheet of paper had been inadvertently given to three clients attending a job seminar.

All three copies were retrieved and the person whose details were released was being contacted.

"Unfortunately, human error does happen. How we respond to errors is crucial," Ms Power said. She apologised to those involved.

Labour's social development spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, said the independent review into the ministry's information systems should be broadened to look at systematic security problems.

"Mistakes happen, but there is also a tipping point where mistakes become so regular that they start to undermine public confidence."

Prime Minister John Key said the problems were "unfortunate", but needed to be seen in context. "I think we've got to give people a bit of credit that work at MSD. I mean they try very hard, they do a good job. From time-to-time people can make a human mistake."

He rejected suggestions it undermined the Government's push for greater information-sharing between government agencies.

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"We would obviously encourage everyone that works for government departments to be as careful as they can."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the breaches, while disappointing, did not point to a systematic error.

In a separate incident, a list of the full names of the beneficiaries, and the type of benefit they were seeking, was handed to a Masterton woman last week.

- The Dominion Post

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