Connect with us

News

Cabinet policy obliges ministers to delete instant messages

Cabinet

Cabinet policy obliges ministers to delete instant messages

Ministers and civil servants are required by cabinet policy to set instant messaging chats to delete automatically, it has been revealed, as a judicial review over the government’s use of self-destructing messages was given the go-ahead.

The not-profit organisation the Citizens says the use of disappearing messages, which has been described as “government by WhatsApp”, violates British law on public records and freedom of information.

Its legal challenge comes amid concerns that the likes of WhatsApp and Signal, which have a disappearing messages option, are being used to avoid scrutiny of decision-making processes, including on significant issues such as the government’s coronavirus response.

At a high court hearing in London on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Cabinet Office’s “information and records retention and destruction policy”, disclosed in response to the Citizens application for a judicial review, obliges officials to delete instant chats.

The policy says: “Instant messaging is provided to all staff and should be used in preference to email for routine communications where there is no need to retain a record of the communication. Instant messages history in individual and group chats must be switched off and should not be retained once a session is finished. If the content of an instant message is required for the record or as an audit trail, a note for the record should be created and the message content saved in that.”

The Citizens says making a separate note, as opposed to preserving the actual message, is insufficient to comply with the law. Other documents disclosed ban the use of personal phones, email and WhatsApp by ministers and civil servants. The Citizens, which is being supported by the campaigning law group Foxglove, says the policies are “a confusing, contradictory mess”.

It is challenging the lawfulness of:

  • Use for government business of instant messaging services that allow messages to be automatically deleted, permanently, within a short period of receipt by ministers, civil servants and special advisers.
  • Cabinet Office policy requiring the use of automatic deletion within all instant messaging services.
  • Use for government business of personal devices, email and communications applications in breach, it says, of the government’s own policies.

After Mrs Justice Lang granted permission for the case to go to full judicial review, Clara Maguire, the director of the Citizens, said: “This is a good day for democracy. Lack of transparency has been at the heart of the UK government’s disastrous handling of the Covid catastrophe as today’s parliamentary report points out so clearly.

“It says that a culture of secrecy contributed to tens of thousands of excess deaths. We believe this case goes to the very heart of this problem and we look forward to proving government by WhatsApp is not only dangerous but also unlawful.”

The non-profit organisation argues the use of instant messaging makes it impossible to carry out required legal checks about whether a message should be archived for posterity. Information that could be useful to a public inquiry, or otherwise fall within the scope of a freedom of information request, may be lost as a result.

Cori Crider, the director of Foxglove, said: “Government by WhatsApp is an existential threat to Britain’s historical record. From people in positions of public trust, the law – and the country – require more.”

In July, the information commissioner announced an investigation into the use of private correspondence channels at the Department of Health and Social Care.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Ministers will use a range of modern forms of communication for discussions, in line with legislative requirements, and taking into account government guidance.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Bauchi pays N3.418bn in outstanding gratuities

The Bauchi State Pensions Board has announced that, from May 2019 to date, the state government has paid N3,418,288,11.68 in outstanding gratuities owed to retired civil servants.

The Chairman of the Board, Senator Bala Adamu Kariya, made the disclosure at the ongoing ministerial press briefing in Bauchi, held at the State Secretariat.

Although Senator Kariya did not specify the total gratuity backlog, he noted that it exceeds N20 billion.

He stated that since the inception of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration in 2019, a total of 4,273 people have retired, and 677 have died while in service, out of 4,948 files processed.

“The Board processes the files of civil servants due for retirement. We are the custodians of the processed files of all state civil servants who have retired,” the chairman stated.

Senator Adamu, however, said that in order to avoid further accumulation of pension and gratuity liabilities, the state government intends to commence the implementation of the proposed contributory pension scheme on June 30, 2021.

“As a sign of commitment, His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, appointed a 20-member committee, including a staff member of Messrs Premium Pension Ltd for technical guidance under the chairmanship of Mr. Abdon Dalla Gin (Special Adviser on Civil Service Matters).”

“In line with the Terms of Reference to the Committee, a final report with a draft bill has been carefully produced, tapping from the 2004 Act, 2014 revised Act, and previous efforts of successive state administrations like the 2005 and 2017 draft bills, and was presented to His Excellency, the Executive Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir, as appropriate.”

He recalled that Governor Bala Mohammed had presented the report to the State Executive Council for consideration and approval, following which a draft bill was forwarded to the State House of Assembly for further legislative process in line with the laid down constitutional procedure.

“After gathering the necessary stakeholders’ input, the State House of Assembly then ratified the draft and returned the same to the Executive Governor for assent. Consequently, on August 5, 2022, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, assented to the bill enacted by the State House of Assembly.”

“It was named the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Scheme. The law also provided for the establishment of the Bauchi State and Local Government Contributory Pension Commission.”

“The state governor approved the constitution of another high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Muhammad Kashim, the Secretary to the State Government, to facilitate the full implementation process of the new scheme in the state.”

Kariya further explained that prior to this development, the state government appointed two firms of Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs), who have now engaged stakeholders in a massive sensitization, advocacy, and enlightenment of the scheme across the state.

Continue Reading

News

Two-storey building collapses in Abuja

A two-storey residential building in Phase 2, site 2, Kubwa Abuja has collapsed

The building collapsed on Saturday morning at about 7:00am.

It was learnt that the building was formerly a hotel, Al-Hilal, but was converted to a residential apartment.

It was gathered that several people are currently trapped in the rubble.

As at time of filing this report, emergency responders and security personnel were at the scene.

 

Continue Reading

News

Police to enforce e-CMR compliance from July 29

The Nigeria Police Force have given all motor users 14 days to register their vehicles with the newly-introduced digitalized Central Motor Registration (e-CMR), which will end on July 29, to begin the enforcement of its compliance in order to checkmate the rate of vehicle-related crimes and other offenses.

In a press release, the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, informed that the move is part of the efforts of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, to enhance the security of lives and property and significantly boost the nation’s safety.

The release further stated that the exercise is an advanced form of helping security agencies, mostly the Police Force, in their investigations and operational activities to combat vehicle-related crimes, including terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other social vices.

It also stated that the introduction of the e-CMR digitalized system will help streamline the documentation and verification process for vehicle ownership and related transactions.

“Following the directives of the IGP, services such as change of ownership, change of license number, change of engine, and change of chassis/body would become seamless as the e-CMR system would ensure the validation of vehicle genuineness and ownership, enhancing the ability to track and recover stolen vehicles effectively, and preventing the purchase of stolen vehicles by innocent buyers.

“Prior to the enforcement itself, the IGP has ordered full publicity of the e-CMR and its enforcement to all members of the public, intimating them of the requirements, processes, and the enforcement procedures. Members of the public are urged to obtain the digitalized CMR certificate online at https://cmris.npf.gov.ng.

‘For further inquiries, individuals can contact the CMR Command Centre at FHQ Abuja (08117777666, 09169892000) and FHQ Annex Lagos (08117777555, 09169891000). Technical support is also available at cmftech@npfcmr.ng,” the release partly stated.

Following this new development, the Nigeria Police have enjoined members of the public to participate in the exercise by ensuring that all vehicle users comply with the new directive, maintaining that the initiative, which is in line with modern technology, remains a strategic approach to enhance public safety and national security.

ACP Adejobi further stated that the enforcement of the e-CMR is necessary to ensure a safer and more secure environment for vehicle ownership and to decimate the trend of vehicle theft by greatly reducing the possibility of selling stolen vehicles in the country.

“We therefore urge all vehicle owners and users to embrace and participate in this initiative promptly for optimum safety and security,” he stated.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending