London, Sept.8 : The loss of a computer disc carrying sensitive details of thousands of prison service employees is likely to cost British taxpayers millions of pounds. The country's Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has ordered an urgent inquiry after it was revealed that the hard drive was reported missing in July. e has also demanded to be told why he was not informed in time about the incident that occurred in July 2007.
In a statement, Straw said: "I am extremely concerned about this missing data. I was informed of its loss at lunch-time today (Saturday) and have ordered an urgent inquiry into the circumstances and the implications of the data loss and the level of risk involved. I have also asked for a report as to why I was not informed as soon as my department became aware of this issue."
US firm Electronic Data Systems (EDS) has admitted to losing data containing the names, dates of birth, National Insurance numbers and prison service numbers of up to 5,000 employees of the National Offender Management Service.
The incident is the latest in a string of data losses to embarrass the Government, including the disappearance last October of two computer discs containing personal details of 25 million child benefit claimants.
The Prison Officers' Association said the loss, which it had not been informed about, could end up costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.
National chairman Colin Moses said: "We are extremely concerned that not only has this data been lost, but that the Prison Service appear to have tried to conceal this serious breach in security."
"It is a breach that we believe could ultimately cost the taxpayer millions and millions of pounds, because, if the information lost is personal and sensitive, it may well mean staff having to move prisons, move homes and relocate their families," he added.