The bill permits the Comptroller to disclose information with consent to public officers and private individuals engaged by the Government to assist public officers. These private individuals have to execute a declaration of secrecy and commits an offence if they were to disclose such information received.
Can the Minister tell us what is the penalty involved for this offence? Would that be under section 94 of the Income Tax Act which states the penalty as maximum $5000 fine, and in default, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months? Does the Minister think it is adequate for deterrence purposes?
Under the PDPA, the penalty for unauthorised disclosure of personal data is maximum $5000 fine or imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or both. This is more severe than the penalty under the Income Tax Act. And yet, income information is something most consider highly confidential and sensitive, more so than other personal data like address, phone numbers etc.
Will the Minister review the penalty for unauthorised disclosure of income information?
Secondly, what measures are in place to prevent individuals with access to confidential income information on individuals and companies from utilising that confidential information to benefit themselves or their companies financially? What penalties are in place for unauthorised utilisation of information? The financing gains for such unauthorised utilisation may outweigh a $5000 fine.
The bill also permits the Comptroller to disclose information listed in the Eleventh Schedule without the person’s consent. I had originally intended to ask for the need for this provision and what are the circumstances that this would be needed. However I note that the SMS Chee has provided the answer in his earlier speech, that it was for the purpose of enabling government departments to pro-actively reach out to companies that may qualify for assistance programmes. I appreciate the good intentions of this move but feel that the bill should then specify the circumstances under which the disclosure can take place instead of staying open-ended and throwing the gate open to disclosure without consent under all other circumstances.
The Eleventh schedule currently lists only company information, not information on individuals. However, Clause 41 of the bill allows the Minister to amend the Eleventh Schedule. This seems to suggest that the Minister will be able to add personal information into the Eleventh Schedule subsequently. If so, this would raise privacy concerns and is quite a major departure from what the current bill contains. I have grave concerns about this power being vested in a single individual. Any such decision should be justified and debated in Parliament.
I therefore suggest that instead of amending section 106(3), to insert section 106(4) to allow the Minister to amend the Eleventh schedule subject to the barring of any individual information being included.