Thought for the day: Keep it clean

If private sector staff lose their jobs for accessing pornography at work why should civil servants staff not face the same...

Simon Moores  


 

If private sector staff lose their jobs for accessing pornography at work why should civil servants not face the same penalty? Simon Moores thinks they should

 

It is a pretty impressive statistic by any measure of data collection: 2,000,000 pages - not quite a terabyte but certainly up there in the gigabyte awards - and one wonders how much the advanced storage technology supporting it might be costing the taxpayer.

I’m writing, of course, about the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) - and not, sadly, about the administration of benefit records and other necessary public duties but on the accumulation of pornography.

If you dig back far enough into some of my earlier columns you will find that I speculated that public sector and university IT might have a second and sinister hidden function, which includes the serving of inappropriate material, such as pornography and images of child abuse.

We have just been told that more than 200 civil servants have been disciplined for downloading pornographic images at work as part of an eight-month investigation which monitored the computer use of 140,000 staff at the DWP.

Those of us working in the private sector recognise the risk of vicarious liability on the part of the employer and will sensibly exercise a policy of zero-tolerance where such activities are discovered in the workplace.

If employees are found to be downloading or distributing pornography and images of child abuse there is only one recourse: show them the door and, where appropriate, involve the police. That is the norm in the private sector.

A cynic would not be surprised if the heavily unionised public sector was unable to react swiftly or was incapable of doing what the rest of society might believe is the right thing under such circumstances. But the DWP response is unimpressive.

In the DWP, we are told, one person has been prosecuted and 227 disciplined. Of these 16 were sacked, which must make the odds of getting away with downloading pornography on public-sector systems seem quite attractive to those with the impulse to swap dirty pictures at work.

The weak excuse from the DWP that many staff “innocently followed a link from another site and were unaware of its content”, is not really good enough, as any audit trail will be able to clearly discriminate between those who strayed to a website by mistake and never visited it again and those who repeatedly returned. The reporting capabilities of such systems can now build up a body of evidence that would support any decision to dismiss an employee for inappropriate use.

Our public sector is poor at taking responsibility for anything these days, whether this involves a shortage of body armour for our soldiers or images of child abuse held on central government systems. I suspect that the DWP represents the tip of a much larger iceberg which shames our public sector use of IT.

Zero tolerance of such behaviour at work should be universal - and even more rigorously enforced where the taxpayer’s money is involved. No excuses: the public sector should set the example for business and not the other way around.

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security .

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit www.zentelligence.com

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security .

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit www.zentelligence.com

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The DWP's Universal Jobmatch site has jobs in the porn industry openly advertised ... Along with the usual Pyramid schemes, Multi-level marketing scams and the ubiquitous Identity thieves, It's the way this government likes to operate, and the reason Universal Jobmatch was recently voted the UK's worst recruitment site.

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