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Cadastre Data Loss

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Wednesday 07 August 2013

The Treasury and Resources Department is today refuting claims made by Deputy Garry Collins that a deliberate attempt was made to "cover up" computer failures at the Cadastre Department.

Responding to the claims, Minister for the Department, Deputy Gavin St Pier, said:

"The server failures at Cadastre happened over the Easter weekend at the end of March. The matter was then investigated by the Department's IT staff and a full report was then submitted for consideration by the Board at the end of April.

"At the time it considered the report, the Board did make it very clear that it was disappointed that it had not been made aware of the incident at an earlier stage and has asked that, in future, I should be alerted to any such problems should they reoccur at a much earlier point.

"However, I am quite clear that the delay was in no way an attempt by staff to conceal or hide the issue from the Board. It simply reflects the balancing act involved each day for them in judging which operational issues merit being raised to the Board and which do not. There is a risk that, if too much is elevated to the Board, it will result in it micro-managing the Department's affairs. In this case, they got it wrong. It was for this reason that the Board agreed earlier in the year that Deputy Collins would be nominated as the Board member with special responsibilities for IT matters and it was in this capacity that he was first alerted by staff to the problems that had been experienced ahead of the rest of the Board."

In early June, the Board considered a further report which it had requested that set out the impact of the server failures on the Cadastre Department. Deputy St Pier continued:

"Although the database of property ownership and TRP taxation was lost as a result of the server failure, it was quickly restored over the course of the Easter weekend using copies of the database. Only one day's worth of data was completely lost, but this was also quickly restored and authenticated within one working day using paper records.

"I stress that the billing and collection of TRP continued without interruption."

The main loss of data was in the Department's workflow tracking system, which stores for audit purposes historical copies of documentation, such as building control permits, which had been provided to Cadastre in the preceding six months to alert it to changes in property that may affect its classification for TRP purposes. The Cadastre team are able to restore much, but not all, of this data, for instance by using duplicate copies of the building control permits concerned.

The second main area of loss relates to electronic PDF copies over the preceding six months of outgoing correspondence from the Department, as well as the emails of 3 staff members and all voice mail messages, which were stored in the Department's administration systems. To date, it is estimated that over 90% of all affected correspondence files have been restored from paper copies, but it has not been possible to restore the email and voice mail files.

Deputy St Pier concluded by saying:

"Following this incident, the Department has undertaken a review of the back-up arrangements at Cadastre and agreed a number of steps to improve these in future. This includes greater automation of the back of procedures, some of which were previously carried out manually, and the storing of archive data at multiple off-site locations."

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