Wiping the phone at the Treasury

Wiping the phone at the Treasury

I wrote a piece on the Guardian story about the Treasury losing the Perm Sec’s texts and posted it on linkedin. One particularly disturbing feature of this story may be that messages from David Cameron about Greensill Capital have been lost. On the linkedin blog, I looked at the story from an IT Security and employment law point of view rather than looking at the political corruption angle. I suggest that for an organisation with a public record, FoI or compliance liability that SMS and whatsapp or any messaging product without central logging should not be used. I suggest that wiping the phone instead of a password reset especially when the device has not been lost might be a bit extreme. I hint that peer to peer messaging without a super user is also inappropriate.

I argue that this is a symptom of the growing contempt that politicians and now it seems bureaucrats have for their record keeping responsibilities which are mandate by statute law. It is likely that the use of personal IT i.e. phones and emails if not laptops/workstations is becoming endemic destroying and designed to destroy audit trails of behaviour. I note and have commented elsewhere on the failure to pass the email & records relating to Johnson’s decisions with respect to Jennifer Arcuri’s trade missions and grants.

I note that such behaviour if undertaken by more junior staff would probably involve disciplinary action. I have dealt with cases where people have been investigated under the disciplinary policy for misuse of their personal IT in the office and also for the destruction or unauthorised amendment to business records. These have usually been considered gross misconduct cases which can lead to dismissal, but most of my members are blue collar workers.

With respect to the Treasury, I wonder if the texts have been truly lost, if they have, it’s either a policy failure, i.e. a failure of the control design or a deliberate breach. Someone should be accountable, just as they should at the GLA. The irony here i.e. at the Treasury is that it looks like the responsible person for either of these failures is the same person. The Permanent Secretary is meant to be a check on the, certainly, financial probity of ministers and occupy an important role in implementing a segregation of duties and avoiding  toxic combinations. These controls are designed to stop fraud and corruption. These ones seem to have failed. …

Voting by Mobile Phone


Polly Toynbee in the Guardian today bemoans the low turn out and the perceived ‘rotten borough’ nature of Britain’s parliamentary democracy. Among her arguments she suggests voting should be made easier by allowing people to use their mobile phones.

I have commented; because identifying oneself to government, counting elections and guaranteeing the secrecy of the ballot are the last things we should hand over to proprietary, closed software. Digital activists have come to the conclusion that even counting election results by scanned paper ballots is undesirable and where it is done in this country, a sample based manual verification is undertaken. I presented the argument that the regulator’s code must be open to the @labourdigital Top of the Manifestos event. …