Labour has demanded an investigation after a mistake by outsourcing firm Serco led to the email addresses of almost 300 contract tracers being shared.
Last week, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves raised concerns about the lack of transparency in contracting out aspects of the coronavirus response, and apparent poor performance of outsourcing specialists brought in to carry out key aspects of the Coronavirus response – including testing, contact tracing, and coordinating the manufacture and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment to hospitals and care homes.
Now, Reeves is calling for urgent Government action over the blunder to restore public confidence in the contact tracing operation which is a key part of the fight against coronavirus.
Serco is training staff to trace cases of Covid-19 on behalf of the Government. The outsourcing giant made the error when it sent an email to new trainees informing them about training.
In a letter (full text below) to her opposite number Michael Gove, Rachel Reeves has called him to publish details of the coronavirus contracts handed to Serco and the impact of the data breach including:
· The consequences Serco will face for the breach
· The assurances the government has been given that Serco can be trusted with the data of its workers and the public
· The details of the contracts handed to Serco, and on what basis the company was chosen to run vital elements of the Government’s Covid-19 response.
In her letter, Reeves said she was “alarmed” by the data breach and that it was “particularly troubling that a company that is being trusted with some of the most sensitive work in our national effort against the virus seems to struggle with the most basic aspects of data privacy”.
She also warned Serco’s prominent, role in the delivery of contact tracing was a cause for concern given the Serious Fraud Office’s 2019 investigation into Serco and because of the questionable performance of Serco’s existing contracts with the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:
“To ease the lockdown restrictions, a proper system of test, trace and isolate needs to be in place. The Government needs to make sure it is, and that the public have faith in it.”. “It has never been clear what expertise or specialist knowledge Serco can bring to contact tracing. It now appears that they are struggling to implement even basic aspects of data privacy.
“We need some clarity from the Government about why and how Serco came to be awarded this contract; and we need reassurances that the contract tracing programme is in safe hands. “The Prime Minister has promised it will be up and running by the 1st of June; if we are to ease lockdown safely, then it is essential that the Government gets this right.”