Foreign Office tops Whitehall list for staff disciplined for computer misuse

More than 160 Foreign Office staff have been disciplined for internet or IT abuse at work in the past three years, it has emerged.

The numbers are significantly higher at the Foreign Office than in any other government department which has produced figures on the problem.

In a written parliamentary answer to a question from Democratic Unionist MP David Simpson, new foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said one person was sacked in 2003 and 72 were disciplined.

Levels of internet and IT abuse fell in 2004, with 36 staff disciplined but the figure rose again to 58 last year.

No details have been given yet about exactly what the abuse involved.

Simpson told the BBC News website the figures showed that the Foreign Office seemed to be lagging behind the rest of government.

“The fact that more than 160 Foreign Office staff have been disciplined during the past three years is worrying enough,” he said. “However, what is also of concern is the fact that only one was dismissed.

“Clearly we need to be told exactly in what way these abuses occurred and in what way the sole dismissal differed in seriousness from all of the rest.”

The Department for Transport has also revealed it has dismissed seven people for abuse since 2002 – but it has only disciplined another 16 people during the same period.

Figures released for other departments include:

  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Three staff formally disciplined between 2001 and 2005, including two officials dismissed and one who resigned before the procedures were completed
  • Department for International Development: One official disciplined, three dismissed during the past five years
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport: None
  • Treasury: Five disciplined between 2001 and 2005, with two resigning during the investigation.

The Ministry of Defence said information is not collected centrally so figures are not available.

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