Laptop Containing Sensitive Fiji Voter Registration Data ‘Missing’

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Elections official who took computer without authorization, reports it stolen

By Jyoti Pratibha SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Feb 26, 2014) – A laptop containing highly sensitive data regarding the electoral roll for this year’s general election has gone missing.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirmed it yesterday saying the laptop was taken out of the Elections Office by the Officer Information Technology Manager Rejieli Lesione without authorisation from any official, and had been missing for 10 days before she informed her superiors about it.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, "It was brought to the attention of our office last Friday evening that the IT manager at the Elections Office, without authorisation, took one of the EVR (electronic voter registration) laptops.

"This contained very sensitive data such as the entire national register of voters in softcopy, the statistical analysis of the data including division by age, gender, distribution etc.

"What is very worrying is that apart from the fact that this laptop was taken unauthorised, it was only brought to the attention of the Elections Office last week Tuesday that the IT Manager had taken this without authorisation.

"She now claims the laptop was stolen from her house. She reported this to the Senior Administrative Officer last week Tuesday. The Administrative Officer, then, also did not see it fit to report this highly sensitive matter to the Permanent Secretary of Elections. She only told him last Friday, some four days after it became known to her.

"When this matter was brought to our attention on Friday evening by the Permanent Secretary of Justice, we asked for a full brief," he said.

"As you know the Electoral Office falls under the jurisdiction of the Electoral Commission, we notified the Prime Minister and immediately told the Electoral Commission to terminate the services of these two officers, because there is no other way to deal with such matters.

"The matter has also been reported to the police and Criminal Investigation Department and they are carrying out full investigations in this matter. The data, of course, is secure at the Elections Office, nobody can manipulate that. But, what is worrying, is the fact that the actual copy of the roll was in this particular equipment that was taken from the Elections Office without authorization, by the IT Manager. And, on top of that, the Senior Admin Officer Lanieta Gadolo found out about it on Tuesday and again did not see it fit to tell the Permanent Secretary about the missing equipment and more importantly, the data in it."

"This is extremely worrying and this is precisely what we have been saying that there are some people at the Elections Office who do not have integrity and this is why we have involved the Australians in doing specific job descriptions and this is why precisely we have told the Electoral Commission that they need to appoint people with integrity and with no political bias.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is calling onto the Commission to treat this matter with seriousness.

"We are also now relying on the CID and the Fiji Police Force to ensure that those people who have access to this information and equipment are brought to justice. We are very concerned that there may be some people with political inclination or maybe even political parties who may be involved or try to access that information."

"It is quite sad to see that there are individuals within our society, who want to disrupt a programme that has been implemented for the first time in Fiji’s history where we are trying to put in place credible and transparent processes and they seem to engage in such activities."

"In these kind of matters where you have staff at senior level making such fundamental breaches, the Electoral Commission should not tolerate these kinds of behavior."

"Indeed, last year, when we found certain elections office staff engaged in political activities, we terminated their services immediately."

"In this case, the Electoral Commission would be failing in its duties, not just as Electoral Commissioners but also in their fiduciary duties to the Fijian people if they do not terminate the services of these people immediately.

"It is not a time to take such matters lightly. The Chairman and the Commission would be utterly doing a disservice to the people of Fiji if they treat this matter lightly and do not terminate these people immediately."

Commission Chair Chen Young could not be reached for comments last night. Calls made to his mobile phone and a text message sent remained unanswered when this edition went to press.

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