Data protection commissioner not informed of identity ‘super agency’

Labour candidate Joe Vella Bonnici reported to have met departmental employees in role of Identity Malta’s executive chairman.

Joe Vella Bonnici was reported to have held meetings with government employees in the role of Identity Malta's executive chairperson.
Joe Vella Bonnici was reported to have held meetings with government employees in the role of Identity Malta's executive chairperson.

A new government agency that will centralise key identity databases was set up without the knowledge of departmental director-generals or even the Information and Data Protection Commissioner, MaltaToday has confirmed.

'Identity Malta' will be run by its executive chairman Joe Vella Bonnici, an economist and formerly a Labour candidate, as a separate government agency that will centralise all passport records, national identity records, the extensive public and land registries, and other civil registries.

While minister for home affairs and national security Manuel Mallia yesterday claimed the government had "for months" talked about setting up an agency that would coordinate citizenship records and cut down on inefficiencies in the current departments, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi flagged the surreptitious manner in which the agency had been incorporated without any official announcement.

MaltaToday also learnt that data protection commissioner Joe Ebejer was unaware of the legal notice published on 10 September, and that departmental heads at the lands and public registries were only informed of the agency's creation at the last minute.

Both government and private notaries were reportedly surprised at news of the agency's set-up, without any official announcement.

Vella Bonnici himself was reported by government employees of having held unofficial meetings to recruit department staff to the agency, whilst unions representing public sector workers have demanded a meeting with the home affairs ministry.

The jury is still out on what sort of agency Identity Malta will be, although Jason Azzopardi yesterday said the short legal notice appears to give the home affairs ministry a wide berth and access to "an exaggerated amount of information and personal data".

Azzopardi said the Opposition could not ignore the "dangerous development in governance, with an agency that gives too much accessibility to personal data to one minister... it gives rise to great abuse without clear safeguards for citizens."

The legal notice describes the agency's responsibility to "execute the functions and duties of the public administration in matters relating to passports, identity documents, work and residence permits for expatriates, land registration and registration of public deeds, acts of civil status and individual investment programmes."

The agency will be delegated the ministry's duties under the Malta Citizenship Act, the Identity Card and Other Identity Documents Act, the Passports Ordinance, and oversee the directors of the public registry and civil registry, and the land registrar.

There is no mention of any data protection safeguards to limit its actions, and the legal notice states that its operations will be carried out "in accordance with an agency agreement that shall be agreed between the permanent secretary and the agency."

Government agencies established under the Public Administration Act have a separate legal personality and can enter into contracts, acquire property and recruit its own personnel.

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@Kelinu: Saqsi lil Paul Borg Olivier fuq data privata ta cittadini li marru ghal pjaciri fid-dipartimenti ta l-istat u spiccaw bi snooping PN.....ghand Borg Olivier! Jew saqsi kif Jason u Beppe kif ghandhom informazzjoni konfidenzjali li l-anqas l-ufficjal ta l-armata ma ghandu dritt ghaliha taht GonziSimonPN! Ippokrezija grassa ma tantx titwemmen!
Luke Camilleri
FL-AHHAR ha jkollna IDENTITA ! U KULL MIN GHANDHU IDENTITA MALTIJA JKOLLHU IDENTITA F'PAJJIZU kif xieraq u mhux b'Government Notice u kollox jibqa status quo! NIMXU IL-QUDDIEM B'IDENTITA!
Mr Joe Vella Bonnici ma kienx kandidat mal PL fl-ahhar elezzjoni
If this new agency begets efficiency in these departments, then fine; albeit with proper controls on the use/abuse of citizen's privacy embedded and ENFORCEABLE. Now that is where the PN should stick its neck out.
More jobs for the eyed boys that is!!!!
Haven't these people heard of Snowden? Another snooping agency after the snooping secret service installed by the PN. Who respects our civil liberties?