08 September 2008 | Paul Snell
Justice secretary Jack Straw has launched an urgent inquiry after a supplier lost a computer hard drive containing financial and personal details about the Prison Service and its staff.
A letter, sent to the Prison Service by contractor EDS, said the hard disk contained mostly financial information and included copies of supplier invoices and e-mails related to supplier transactions. The disk also contained personal details of around 5,000 prison staff.
The drive was lost in July 2007, but this was only revealed to the Ministry of Justice this summer. Straw, who only found out about the loss at the weekend, said in a statement: "I have also asked for a report as to why I was not informed as soon as my department became aware of this issue. My officials are also in touch with EDS as part of these processes. We take these matters extremely seriously."
It is the second embarrassing loss of data by a private contractor for the government in the past month. At the end of August details of prisoners were lost after being downloaded onto a memory stick by supplier PA Consulting.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith said the department was reviewing the terms of this and other contracts it holds with PA Consulting.
"It's completely unsatisfactory. It runs against the rules set down both for the holding of government data and set down by the external contractor, and certainly set down in the contract that we had with the external contractor."