The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has warned the Government that new proposed structures for the organisation could slow down the pace of major data protection inquiries involving high-tech companies and other multinationals.
In a pre-budget submission, the DPC said there “simply aren’t enough people” if plans for a new system of governance involving multiple committees were implemented.
In the document, the commission claimed it was “by far the most agile and expeditious” data protection authority in Europe when it came to large-scale inquiries and that this could be compromised by increased procedural bureaucracy.
It said: “The new form of administration which has been prescribed [will require] more rigidly structured, multi-layered protocols that have the potential to decelerate the rate at which the DPC concludes its regulatory inquiries.”
The submission also warned of chronic difficulties in recruiting suitable staff, and said there were long waiting times in getting jobs advertised through the Public Appointments Service.
They said this had “inevitably caused significant delays to all of the DPC’s 2023 recruitment campaigns and onboarding of new hires”.
The document also outlined how the DPC had run into unforeseen delays in moving to a new headquarters in Dublin city centre.
The commission had hoped to be in situ on Pembroke Row by March of last year – however, they said the OPW had since told them the office would not be ready until the end of 2024.
“It is important to note that it was not in the DPC’s power to expedite its office move, as the move itself was ultimately dependant on Office of Public Work’s (OPW) own readiness,” said the submission.
The DPC also said it was looking for approval for more than 30 new staff, which were needed across the organisation.
This included a new assistant secretary who was needed to deal with the “significant challenges in managing the range and volume of work mandated for the DPC in an efficient and timely manner”.
The commission said it was facing ongoing challenges in recruiting permanent legal stuff due to the huge “disparity” between public sector wages and what was available in the private sector.
They said a legal budget of €3.8mn would be needed for 2024 due to the “exponential growth” in volume and complexity of the cases they were dealing with.
The DPC said they were currently in the process of closing out a number of large-scale inquiries involving “cross border processing” of data by large multinational companies across the EU.
“These inquiries can be highly contentious, with the likelihood that any decision issued will be appealed by one or more of the parties involved,” the submission added.
The commission said they had already spent a significant amount of money on such cases which tended to be “intensive and costly” with very specialised legal advisers required.
The DPC also said they would need an extra €525,000 in funding to pay for two new commissioners, who are to be appointed as part of restructuring plans for the public body.
“As this is a decision of the Government, the DPC has no flexibility with regard to this salary increase, and so must request a budgetary increase commensurate with the increased costs,” the submission said.