West Australia’s corruption watchdog received more than 100 allegations of unlawful access of the state’s driver registration data base over a 12 month period.
A Crime and Corruption Commission investigation found that authorised users from within and outside the Department of Transport had abused their position to unlawfully access information about members of the public from the TRELIS licencing and registration database between 2019-2020.
Reasons included viewing of the user’s own driver licence details, renewing a family member’s vehicle registration, or obtaining information to share with family or friends.
During 2019 and 2020, over 100 incidents of unlawful access to TRELIS were notified by DoT to the Commission.WA Crime and Corruption Commission
The CCC found a lack of action with respect to unlawful access of information in TRELIS, which the CCC said promoted “a culture of acceptance of its use for personal reasons”.
It also found shortcomings in the way the government managed serious misconduct risks, including a lack of basic enquiries into alleged incidents inconsistent responses.
Biggest government data base
Transport Executive and Licencing Information System, or TRELIS, is used for driver licensing and car registration and holds more personal information about members of the public than any other government data base in the state.
The Driver and Vehicle Services Directorate within DoT has primary responsibility for TRELIS, with the Business Management Team responsible for granting access.
The database contains information about addresses, contact numbes, identity documents, bank information, passports, photos and medical information.
More than 3,000 people including transport department employees, local governments, federal agencies, car dealers and WA and federal police have access to TRELIS. About a third of authorised users are DoT employees.
A previous CCC investigation in 2017 found that a DoT employee had accessed and provided police with information about a person suspected of dealing drugs.
The current investigation focused on 16 of the 100 notifications and it’s report, tabled last week, provides details of seven specific examples of unlawful access involving DoT employees, a local government officer and state and federal agencies.
The CCE says the report should be an important reminder to everyone in a position that allows them access to personal information about members of the public.
“The WA community has a rightful expectation that personal information held in government owned and shared databases is protected, not only from external hackers but from abuse and unlawful access by those people who have been authorised to use it to perform their official duties,” the report says.
The WA community has a rightful expectation that personal information held in government owned and shared databases is protected, not only from external hackers but from abuse and unlawful access by those people who have been authorised to use it to perform their official dutiesWA Crime and Corruption Commission
Since the review the department has put in place an updated TRELIS framework and conducted a series of presentations to DoT employees.
However the CCC says more needs to be done and has made four recommendations including having defined memorandums of understanding with external users.
It’s not the first time improper access to information held by the public sector has come under scrutiny by corruption prevention agencies.
In 2020, Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission examined the improper access and dissemination of confidential information by public sector agencies in Operation Impala – A report on the misuse of confidential information in the Queensland public sector.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission last year also published a report on unauthorised access and disclosure of public sector information held by the Victorian public sector, which it described as one of the key enablers of corrupt behaviour.
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