Nfld. & Labrador

Sunshine list screw-up: privacy breached for 2nd year in a row

The privacy commissioner's privacy was breached along with 22 other government employees when this year's sunshine list was released on June 29.

Government made same mistake last year; minister, privacy commissioner looking for answers

The information and privacy commissioner, Donovan Molloy, says he wants answers from government about how the salaries of 23 people were posted in error. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

For the second year in a row the provincial government's salary disclosure includes names and salaries that shouldn't have been released.

The list, which is often called the "sunshine list" reveals the names and salary information for anyone making more than $100,000.

It is very disappointing.- Finance Minister Tom Osborne

The 23 people accidentally included work for, or report to, the House of Assembly.

These include staff like the law clerk, and people like the chief electoral officer, the citizens representative.

The legislation and regulations, written by the Liberal government, doesn't allow for the disclosure of salaries of people who report to the legislature.

Privacy commissioner's privacy breached

Donovan Molloy, who is the information and privacy commissioner, had his name and salary included on the list. He posts it voluntarily online, but isn't required to and it isn't supposed to be on the list.

"I guess my first inclination was disbelief," said Molloy.

Last year government made the exact same mistake. Legislature's staff salaries were posted along with the names of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers, who government decided could be in danger if their names were released.

Molloy's report found that the processing of the list was too rushed, there wasn't enough oversight and it was inadvertent human error.

Minister of Finance Tom Osborne said after last year's problems there were meetings to address issues, and the department implemented the recommendations.

Finance Minister Tom Osborne is looking at including House of Assembly staff in future sunshine lists. (CBC)

"Last year I took those very seriously," said Osborne. 

"It is very disappointing."

Osborne said he wants to find a way to automate the process of generating the list.

"I mean it's human error. The staff in the (Human Resources Secretariat) division worked very hard and are very professional," he said.

Osborne said the department was notified Monday morning by the clerk of the House of Assembly, who was on the list but shouldn't have been.

It was still posted mid-day when CBC News accessed the list, but by the afternoon it had been removed.

Minister, commissioner looking for answers

"It's disappointing, but I don't want to express any sort of a definitive opinion about it until such a time as the department has an opportunity to explain how the error occurred," said Molloy.

I guess my first inclination was disbelief.- Privacy Commissioner Donovan Molloy

He hasn't decided whether to launch a formal investigation, that may depend on whether any of the people who had their privacy breached complain.

Osborne, meanwhile, wants those same answers.

"I'm looking for a debrief with staff so that I can understand fully why the information was included," he said.

Names should be disclosed: minister

Even while acknowledging this was a breach, Osborne said he's looking into why the legislature staff weren't included on the list of employees covered by the compensation disclosure act.

Some, like Molloy, already disclose the information voluntarily.

The House of Assembly posts a list of job titles and salaries, but no names.

Osborne has asked the Department of Justice and Public Safety, which drafted the legislation, why the House of Assembly wasn't included in the first place, and whether there are any problems with including them now.

"Unless there's a very valid reason why we should not put them on the sunshine list, why do we have people needing to search in multiple locations for information that's being proactively provided to the general public," he said.

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