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Deputy Finance Minister Bemoans Government Officials Use Of Private Emails

The Finance and Economic Development deputy minister, Terrence Mukupe has expressed his disappointment in state officials using private email accounts for government related activities.

Mukupe noted that this was an anomaly compared to New York (where he worked previously), and he said one could actually get fired for using a personal email to address work-related issues:

The issue of fiscalisation, information technology (IT) systems and everything, I have been in government for six months and the fact that I have worked for the best, I came from a situation where I worked in New York for the best banks and I know the kind of IT systems that they have got. You could literally lose your job if you were to use your private email.

There is no way you can have access to your private email given the sensitivity of information. I can tell you (that) as the Ministry of Finance, we don’t have emails. People use their private emails and it’s a practice that’s there within the whole of government where they are using private emails and I cringe every time that you can imagine how much in terms of sensitive documentation that’s all over the place.

This is not the first time this issue has popped up, in March the same issue was brought up by talkshow host Zororo Makamba and I was surprised that the government would skimp on something as simple as tightening up their security. It seems nothing has changed. They are still skimping!

“Security? For who?”

As we communicated to Newsday, public emails are not exactly the safest. For you and me (everyone who is not in government), there is no problem with using an ordinary Gmail account. It probably suffices for all your needs and the assumption is that the data you are sharing is sensitive to you and maybe a few other people but it is not sensitive to the whole of Zimbabwe, which is the case with government officials.

“What do you mean it’s not safe?” Well, when the government uses personal emails for government business, it means that the government’s official records are being stored on mail servers that are beyond their control and their IT department’s control. They don’t know where the data is being stored and they have no way to back up the data, archive it for retention, secure it from unauthorized access, or dispose of it once the retention period is expired.

In case of emergency!

Even accountability and transparency are compromised when government is using public emails for business. If ever those emails are required, there is a high risk that the government won’t be able to produce them because they actually don’t have them. The emails are on someone’s personal public email and not the one which the government has dedicated to official business.

In the USA this could actually result in huge fines or even sanctions and knowing the Zimbabwean government I don’t think they have any punishments for this since it’s actually the norm. It will probably come to bite the government at some point and maybe then they will finally be alert to the dangers

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3 thoughts on “Deputy Finance Minister Bemoans Government Officials Use Of Private Emails

  1. In New York, they can also fire you for bad loan history as you are suppose to lead by example. How many court orders does he have?

    Violent behaviour is also a big NO, in normal countries its instant firing.

  2. There is a lot involved to turn this norm around. According to the way I view it it is not only about using public domains to process government data. It is what is called Information Management by the Government of Zimbabwe. This is a whole broad dimension of using proper and ideal information processing channels/means/procedures.

    Most Zim Government Departments are used to the conventional way of doing things. They fear change of transforming their systems into electronic. They fear for their jobs I guess since the civil service has the largest number of employees in the country. Information Management in Government of Zimbabwe’s systems calls for a whole transformation. A couple of reforms need to be installed in order for this to be a reality. Some vital ones include re-visiting the ICT Strategic Plan, investing in ICT equipment/infrastructure by the entire Government fraternity, train the Government employees including the highest offices such as Ministers/Perm Secretaries/Directors etc on how to efficiently use ICTs.

    There is a whole loads of technologies that allow information/emails to be read and processed from work/government devices when one is not in the office and encrypt the information handling devices such as laptops, iron keys, usb thumb drives, tablets, cellphones etc in case there are stolen.

    In the ICT Strategic document each Government Department needs to establish/revamp proper and conducive IT Department/Unit managed by qualified ethical managers. (I believe this should be an easy fix considering the highly qualified and trained ICT personnel Zimbabwe produces). Ethical Managers are those who do not assume the office to make money out of Government resources issuing out tenders that result in loss of governments funds or the government being prejudiced. The ICT strategies should ensure the proper handling of information (Information Management). Each Government Department should have a proper and updated IT Policies in place. It should be made known and established the consequences of doing anything outside the IT Policies. The policies should be enforced and have everything explained in full and without exemptions as in who is affected and not. If a Director/Minister breaches there should be known universal consequences. An example in the US would be that of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    ICT strategy should also push for proper and full implementation of eCommerce. Right now most Government institutions have obsolete websites that are not updated. If they do they do not have proper means of interacting with the public. Interactive websites where information is processed and where proper working email and forms are responded to. One does not need to travel from Mutoko to a Government Department to get information or call and have your call is placed in a long queue chewing your airtime. These websites should be interactive and have ways to communicate easily whether its online forms or emails that work.

    A lot of money should be channeled towards this ICT cause. There is need to invest in IT Units in each Government department. This is money to procure servers, computers, IT personnel, network equipment, internet subscriptions, security mechanisms (intrusion detection systems, firewalls and antiviruses) service level agreements, development of applications and websites etc.This calls for money (IT capital investments)and the right people in the IT Departments.

    I remember seeing one ICT strategic document that was pushing for fiber connectivity in Zimbabwe. With the fiber in place I believe Internet has also improved and the prices are going down. With Potraz pushing for shared infrastructure amongst vendors this would further bring down the prices and have availability of internet in most parts of the country. Hence when these Ministers/Government employees travel for their meetings to any parts of Zimbabwe they should be able to access their office resources on Government certified devices and systems.

    It may also take Government Departments taking their staff to countries such as South Africa and learn how technology is efficiently being used in Government Departments. If their resources permit taking them to US, UK would help them understand how to effectively and efficiently use the technologies at their disposal.

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