Parliament reviewing IT access

The Federal Department of Health needs to review and strengthen its IT access policies to prevent former ministers from using e-mail after they leave office.

The recommendation was made following an internal investigation into departmental computer access by the former Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge.

Since leaving his ministerial portfolio on November 26, Wooldridge accessed e-mail for months afterward with 270 e-mails sent and received.

His access included shared IT resources for electronic records in his former office and the department's shared internal documents and database.

The report said most access was remote but there were 14 accesses from Commonwealth premises including eight from the ministerial office.

The investigators have asked Wooldridge to return a compact disc provided to him in March containing 833 e-mails from his time as minister which are Commonwealth records and should not have been provided to him.

While Opposition health spokesman Stephen Smith has promised to pursue the matter further Wooldridge said the report revealed no impropriety adding: "I have had my behaviour examined in forensic detail in a way that very few Australians ever have to be subjected to."

One e-mail was found to have breached the Privacy Act, but Wooldridge told ABC radio it was not a "big deal" it was just "something sent by mistake". It was reported that the departmental staffer who sent the message had been counselled but not disciplined.

Wooldridge said the incident had actually occurred because he was trying to blow the whistle on someone who was making false statements about the health department.

"I was attempting to pass on information about someone who was giving false and misleading information relating to a matter in the Department of Health," he said.

Government staff who spoke to Computerworld were not surprised by the lack of controls on departmental e-mails claiming Parliamentary staff can access e-mails weeks after leaving with some former employees still listed on e-mail accounts despite having left months ago.

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