Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.
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After finding that the MTAS system was a complete balls-up and had not only failed in its designed intention to match doctors to jobs but had also spewed applicant’s intimate personal details onto the internet such that they were publicly accessible (see here), it would seem reasonable for Patricia Hewitt to take some action.
Perhaps you might expect that she’d sack the people who design the system. Perhaps she’d resign, and admit that the system she’s introduced was an absolute unmitigated failure. Mad Pat did neither of these.
Instead, she reported Channel 4 News to Ofcom. She hasn’t done anything in terms of getting rid of the company who designed this lamentable system, but has reported the programme which exposed the problem to the broadcast regulator, on the basis that Channel 4 should have reported the problem to the Department of Health more quickly.
Clearly, she thinks that it was absolutely unacceptable that a news programme should take 120 minutes to verify a story before notifying the interested parties, yet spewing junior doctors’ and medical students’ personal data all over the web for anyone to see is merely a minor error.
She said she was sorry ‘to junior doctors or foundation programme applicants who have been caused anxiety or, in some cases, inconvenience as a result’, which is all very nice. But remember, she has broken the law. This is an enormous breach of the Data Protection Act. Saying ‘sorry for causing anxiety’ doesn’t really cut it. If I were to post her intimate details on a website for all to see, would ‘sorry’ be enough?
She also claimed that
There is no evidence that members of the public or other commercial interests, apart from staff at ITN and “Channel 4 News”, accessed the site.
That is an out-and-out lie. There is evidence, and the MTAS project manager has that evidence. And, what’s more, it’s clear from her own speech that it is a lie. She said:
The overwhelming majority of individual accesses before the security breach was closed came from an internet address belonging to ITN, the providers of “Channel 4 News”.
The ‘overwhelming majority’. That means, quite simply, that some of the accesses were not from these internet addresses, but from elsewhere. Therefore, there is evidence that other people accessed the site. She is quite clearly and openly lying to Parliament. If you want to read more of her misguided spiel, check Hansard.
The system has criminally failed, and now she’s lying to cover her own back and kicking off against the people who exposed the flaws.
The Ministerial Code is quite clear about this. Section 1.5.c:
Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister
She surely knows what she has to do.