Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

Winz staff fired over privacy breaches

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Ten Work and Income staff members have been sacked after two inquiries into breaches of privacy for beneficiaries.

The national review of the Ministry of Social Development was launched last December after an investigation into staff at the Manukau branch office.

Seven were dismissed for "appalling" breaches of the code of conduct which included improper use of private files belonging to family and friends, as well as inappropriate email use. An allegation that a staff member sold personal details of a client to a debt collection agency was not proven.

Janet Grossman, the head of Work and Income New Zealand at the time, then ordered a nationwide audit to assure taxpayers they could have confidence in the "integrity of our staff and the welfare system".

Last night, the ministry released under the Official Information Act a summary of the review, which checked 100 randomly selected staff.

The second investigation led to another three workers being sacked but no evidence of a widespread "systemic problem".

"None of these staff gained financially and their actions were not illegal," Winz deputy chief executive Debbie Power wrote.

"However, they were in breach of the zero-tolerance policy and for that reason they lost their jobs."

One of the fired workers emailed their partner, who does not work for the ministry, to say someone they knew had applied for a benefit.

The second emailed an associate, who works in another government department, about a client.

The third sacked staff member accessed and processed records of people they knew.

None financially benefited.

Six other staff received code-of-conduct warnings after the review, as there was evidence of inappropriate access to client files which were described as "lapses of judgment".


CRACKING DOWN

November 2011: Seven Work and Income staff sacked from Manukau Office.

December 2011: National review ordered and 100 staff randomly audited.

July 2012: Three more staff sacked. Six others receive code-of-conduct warnings.

- NZ Herald

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