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