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Press Release

Ministers Donohoe and O’Donovan Welcome the Enactment of the Data Sharing and Governance Act 2019

Last updated: 27 March 2019
Published: 8 March 2019
From: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, along with the Minister of State for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment, Patrick O’Donovan TD, today welcomed the news that the President of Ireland has considered and signed the Data Sharing and Governance Bill 2018 and it has become law.

The purpose of this legislation is to provide a generalised legal basis for the sharing of data between public bodies while also setting out appropriate safeguards under which such sharing can take place.

This legislation will deliver tangible benefits to the public and to business. The Act is key to delivering on public service reform commitments to expand digital delivery of services and make greater use of data. Citizens and businesses can receive better services and public bodies can operate more effectively and efficiently at a lower cost to the Exchequer. More extensive data sharing will also support better policy development and more efficient and effective policy implementation.

The legislation also sets out a series of important governance measures to ensure that personal data is shared by public bodies in a lawful, proportionate and transparent manner in accordance with national and EU data protection law, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Implementation of this legislation will create an opportunity to provide for more unified, consistent and improved safeguards in relation to public service data management. The scope of the governance provisions in the legislation will strengthen how the public service manages its data in respect of how data is collected and processed; how data is kept secure; and how access to data is controlled, monitored and logged.

Minister Donohoe stated:

“This Act will provide for stronger governance and transparency by public service bodies in the way they share and manage data, which will assist public bodies in meeting the stringent data protection requirements provided for under the GDPR. The public has a strong expectation that their data protection rights will be respected and that public bodies will use personal data responsibly, proportionately and securely, and this Act ensures that.”

Minister Donohoe continued:

“As our capacity to deliver digital services grows, so too must our governance of citizens’ data. This Act ensures that appropriate safeguards, accountability and transparency are in place to build the public’s trust in public bodies’ usage of their data. Accordingly, this Act is a very important step in establishing a data ecosystem that will improve how we govern, manage and re-use data in a secure, efficient and transparent way, for the benefit of citizens, businesses and policy makers.”

Minister of State O’Donovan said:

“Making better use of data offers significant opportunities to improve services. Sharing and reusing data will cut down on waste and duplication by ensuring that individuals and businesses should not have to supply the same information more than once to public bodies. Better access to data will improve decision making and planning in the delivery of services.”

Notes for Editors

Policy background

The introduction of legislation to support the public service in making better use of the data it holds is a key commitment in the Government’s reform programme. Enactment of this legislation is an essential step towards the successful delivery of Action 1: ‘Accelerate Digital Delivery of Services’ in Our Public Service 2020, the new framework for development and innovation in the public service. It is also one key action in both the eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020 and the Public Service Data Strategy 2019-2023.

Key provisions:

The Act provides a generalised legal basis for data sharing between public bodies for specific, legitimate purposes, including:

  • making public services more seamless by reducing the burden of providing the same information to different public bodies;
  • facilitating the effective administration, supervision and control of public services;
  • establishing entitlements to public services;
  • identifying and correcting erroneous information; and
  • evaluating the effectiveness of public services.

The Act also requires that sharing be carried out under a formal written data-sharing agreement that sets out in detail what data will be shared with whom, and for what purpose. Data-sharing agreements will be published in advance of any sharing taking place, and the public will be able to comment on the proposals.

In addition, the Act includes a number of provisions to ensure better data governance across the public service through:

  • the establishment of a Data Governance Board to advise the Minister on data management policy in the public service;
  • ministerial power to issue standards, codes and guidelines (some of which will be legally binding) in respect of data management across the public service; and
  • quality assessments of draft Data Sharing Agreements by the Data Governance Board.

The Act also seeks to significantly enhance transparency by providing a legal basis for the creation of a personal data access portal that will provide a single point of access for people to see what data is held about them by public bodies, how that data is used and who is using it.

Other key provisions include powers to:

  • establish base registries that will provide an authentic, authoritative and complete source of basic data about people, businesses and locations for use across the public service;
  • issue a Unique Business Identifier Number (UBIN) for the purpose of uniquely identifying any undertaking that has a transaction with a public body, and for the specification of a business information dataset that can be shared by public bodies in the performance of their functions.
  • direct data sharing between public bodies where this is in the public interest and in compliance with data protection law; and
  • collect and process public service data to support the administration of public service pension schemes (in particular the new single pension scheme) and to facilitate better analysis and evaluation of public service staffing, pay and pensions.