By Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw
Canwest News Service
A B.C. government employee remained on the job for seven months after police searched his Victoria home and discovered the personal information of 1,400 income-assistance clients.
But government ministers were unable to say Wednesday what the employee’s responsibilities were or what kind of access he continued to have to sensitive information.
The employee was suspended last month when Citizens’ Services Minister Ben Stewart said he first learned of the privacy breach. A short time later, the employee was fired from his job in the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
The RCMP says it discovered the missing files during a separate fraud investigation. The force says it alerted the province’s risk mitigation and government security branch in April, showed it the documents in May and returned copies to government in July.
Stewart said he doesn’t know why his office, which is responsible for privacy issues, wasn’t told about the breach until late October. Stewart said his ministry learned about it from someone in the public affairs bureau, which handles communications and issues management.
The government sent letters to 1,400 clients last week — seven months after the breach — warning them to take steps to protect their identities.
B.C.’s privacy watchdog said the lengthy delay in alerting the public was troubling.
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“Privacy mess symptom of Liberals’ woes,” by Paul Willcocks, the Times Colonist, Nov. 29, 2009