Thursday 23 January 2020

Civil servants say they were 'deceived' by agents

St John’s Credit Union on William Street in Limerick
St John’s Credit Union on William Street in Limerick

Niall O'Connor

The officials responsible for providing reams of data to private investigators have both insisted that they acted "in good faith".

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent detail the shock expressed by two civil servants after they were told they had been regularly contacted by so-called tracing agents.

Employee A, who is female and based in the west of Ireland, was responsible for handing out details belonging to 68 credit union members.

During interviews with ­department bosses, the ­employee insisted that the private ­investigator involved was "very convincing".

"She said it never occurred to her that she was doing anything wrong by providing this information," according to internal investigation documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The welfare official claimed she dealt with a large volume of phone calls as part of her duties and that she was regularly contacted by the private investigator.

"She said she was shocked and very annoyed that she had been deceived. She reiterated that (the private investigator) was very convincing and said she had dealt with her requests in good faith."

During the course of the ­internal probe into the ­employee's actions, her ­immediate manager insisted that the official "was one of the best people working in his section".

"She is conscientious and diligent. . . she was a person of great integrity," the manager claimed.

A second case in the department also detailed documents relating to Employee B.

The male official, based in Dublin, was duped by a private investigator who claimed to be phoning from a state agency in Northern Ireland.

"All interactions were carried out in good faith," the employee is reported as saying.

He added that he "never had any reason to doubt the legitimacy of the claims" made by the private investigator who regularly phoned his office.

The documents reveal that during his last known communication with the private investigator in January, Employee B asked that the request for information be made via email.

"No worries," the private investigator replied but has not made contact since.

Both employees were interviewed by the Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney as part of his enquiries into the activities of the agents in question.

They say they were paid no money by agents.

Irish Independent

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