Public sector

New law on data sharing within Govt

Even in the public service, government agencies sometimes run into excessive bureaucracy when working with one another.

But a law introduced in Parliament yesterday will help cut the red tape and let agencies share data with one another more easily, while spelling out rules on how this data can and cannot be used.

The Public Sector (Governance) Bill is part of the Government's push to better coordinate its own agencies, amid the Smart Nation drive to use technology to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

The Bill will officially bring all public agencies and ministries together on the same page, changing the current situation in which each statutory board is governed by its own law.

It also empowers the minister in charge of the civil service with the legal power to give directions to all Singapore public sector agencies and require them to comply with a policy.

These directions, however, are confined to specified areas, such as employment, the handling of official documents, data sharing in the public service, and financial and resource management.

They can also be given only for specific purposes, such as making policy planning and service delivery more efficient by analysing data.

Other goals include ensuring business continuity and working in a whole-of-government manner.

The Bill also allows agencies to share data with one another when directed, "despite any obligation as to confidentiality under the common law".

This means that a public body cannot cite confidentiality as a reason not to share information it has with another public body.

To prevent the misuse of data, the Bill also sets out safeguards.

It will be an offence to disclose or provide access to data without being directed to.

Also, anyone who re-identifies an information source that was made anonymous can be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to two years, or given both punishments.

More details will be given when the Bill is debated early next year.

Six other Bills were introduced yesterday, including changes to the laws on payment systems, immigration, the Supreme Court, and moneylenders.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'New law on data sharing within Govt'. Subscribe