The Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, on Thursday, September 10, 2020, appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and mounted a spirited defense in the implementation of Executive Instrument (EI) 63 as part of measures to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ghana.
EI 63 allows government access to network subscribers’ personal information as a measure of combating COVID-19.
NDC MP for Ningo-Prampram, who threw the first blood to get the best out of the Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission (DPC), Ms. Patricia Adusei-Poku, asked how her outfit was ensuring the privacy of data of network subscribers in the enforcement of EI 63.
“We work with peer regulators in the processing of special data of this pandemic and kept them informed of whatever support they need we have given them to ensure that they are processing the data. So, we’ve been liaising with regulators such as the NCA and the Ghana Health Service”, noted Ms. Adusei-Poku.
A follow up question to enquire from the Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission as to whether her outfit has been involved in the implementation of E1 63 saw the Minister of Communications intervening by telling the PAC to direct its question to the implementing agency of EI 63 which is the National Communications Authority (NCA) since the DPC is not the implementing agency of EI 63.
This was after the Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission, Ms. Patricia Adusei-Poku, had failed to state on record under oath that all agencies implementing EI 63 were complying with the Data Protection Commission.
However, her response seemed not satisfactorily enough for the Chairman of the PAC, James Klutse Avedzi, who is also the NDC MP for Ketu North.
Mr. Avedzi in a follow up question asked whether the DPC is always consulted whenever any agency wanted to access the data of citizens.
Ms. Patricia Adusei-Poku in a sharp response said there are some aspect of the legislation which exempts some agencies to access the data of citizens in emergency situations without consulting the DPC. However, since the DPC is mandated by law to ensure that the data of citizens are protected, the Commission has the powers to consult that implementation agency to ensure that they work within the confines of the law.
After some back and forth questions and answers on the issue, the Chairman of the PAC, James Klutse Avedzi asked whether the Communications Minister is she could assure the Committee that the personal data of Ghanaians are secured in the implementation of EI 63.
“Mr. Chairman, the Ministry of Communications also exercises oversight responsibility over the Data Protection Commission as well and all our agencies act in full conformity of all the laws of the land. And in so far as it extends to the protection of personal data every step is taken to ensure that no untoward activities are conducted in that respect. And I can understand that people are concerned that some actions may be taken that might flout their personal data. But I can assure this Committee that in so far as these agencies work in accordance with the law, every step is taken to ensure that full compliance with the law is adhered to in all the actions we’ve taken and that extends to the protection of individual rights and liberties as permitted by law”, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful assured.