IEC axes official for candidate list leak

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said following a preliminary investigation into the allegations, the involved employee’s contract of employment had been terminated. Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said following a preliminary investigation into the allegations, the involved employee’s contract of employment had been terminated. Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 13, 2024

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The ANC and the MK Party have both called on the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) to improve their systems after the electoral body axed an employee for leaking confidential information.

The parties’ confidential election candidate lists, including names and identity numbers were leaked hours after submission on Friday. The IEC said it had reported the matter to the Information Regulator.

IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said following a preliminary investigation into the allegations, the involved employee’s contract of employment had been terminated.

“The official had rights to access the system and reports but was not authorised to distribute or circulate the information. The official is from one of the local offices of the commission.”

He said the motive for the unauthorised circulation will be pursued as part of the ongoing investigation.

“While this incident is regrettable, our actions demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability. The Electoral Commission maintains the highest level of integrity, ethics, and professionalism. Any behaviour that violates our code of conduct or undermines the credibility of the organisation cannot be tolerated,” Mamabolo said.

ANC spokesperson Mahlengi BhenguMotsiri said the party commends the IEC’s speedy investigation into the unauthorised sharing of their candidate list. “We are pleased to learn that this was not a result of a security breach, but rather the neglectful conduct of an individual. The conduct of the implicated official has jeopardised the personal details of all the individuals on our candidate list. We urge all the appropriate authorities to swiftly address this matter.”

She said the ANC reiterated its full confidence in the IEC to deliver yet another free and fair election.

The MK Party said its legal team had lodged a formal complaint with the electoral body for the leaking of its candidate list. “We view such conduct as unacceptable, unprofessional and it has put the lives of MK candidates at risk and (is a) violation of the Popi (Protection of Personal Information) Act.”

The Information Regulator confirmed that it had received two notifications from the IEC “regarding a security compromise that saw the unlawful release of candidate lists for the ANC and MK Party for the 2024 elections”.

“The Regulator will attend to the notifications from the IEC in accordance with the requirements of the Protection of Personal Information Act No. 4 of 2013 (Popia).

“The Regulator has advised the IEC that the notifications sent to the Regulator do not provide sufficient details about the incidents to make them compliant with Popia requirements.

Accordingly, the Regulator has sent an information notice to the IEC requiring the IEC to furnish the Regulator with more details regarding the incidents,” it said in a statement.

The Regulator has also asked the IEC to provide details on how the unauthorised person accessed the personal information of data subjects and details as to the technical and organisational measures that the IEC has implemented to mitigate the risk of the affected data of subjects’ personal information being unlawfully accessed and/or unlawfully processed.

The chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Mosa Chabane, on Tuesday welcomed the swift action by the IEC in investigating the leaking of candidate lists.

Chabane stressed that the integrity of the electoral process must be protected and that the swift investigation and decision to terminate the employee’s contract demonstrates the integrity of the institution.

DA national spokesperson Werner Horn said the party wanted to know if the individual who was fired had the authority to access the IEC’s system and whether the system allows any person to “extract, download or distribute” confidential information.

“We share the general concern over this information being shared and the IEC needs to tell us how they will improve their systems.”

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said all organisations were open to malfeasance and misconduct by individuals and the speed with which the IEC dealt with the matter showed it was trying to regain the trust and confidence people have in the electoral body.

“These party lists should have not been made confidential in the first place and parties should want transparency as these are the people they are putting forward for government.”

The Mercury

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