PA Consulting has blamed its loss of the personal details of the entire UK prison population on a rogue employee in an apparent plea not to be kicked off any more big government contracts.
Jacqui Smith, in a decidedly un-wacky mood, gave the firm's £1.5m JTrack offender data deal the chop yesterday saying there had been a "clear breach" of its terms. She added that a further £8m of immigration, identity, and law enforcement contracts would be reviewed too.
In a statement today, PA Consulting bid to limit the damage. It said: "The loss of data on this project was caused by human failure, a single employee was in breach of PA's well established information security processes. We deeply regret this human failure and apologise unreservedly to the Home Office."
The firm followed its grovelling by correctly pointing out that an array of government contractors seem incapable of keeping a lid on sensitive data. "PA has safely handled sensitive government information for over 60 years and this is the first incident of such a nature that PA has been involved in. It is clear from the events of recent weeks that the challenge of managing necessary confidential information held by government, and in particular of eliminating human error, is industry-wide," it said.
PA Consulting was too polite to mention that the civil service has made its own share of high-profile data gaffes recently.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were less sheepish. Both accused ministers of scapegoating the firm so that they are seen to be on top of information security. PA consulting also has a £19m contract advising the government on the ID cards scheme. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve renewed the Tory call to scrap the project, saying the loss of prisoner data showed that the Home Office can't be trusted with data. ®