Ministers Donohoe and O’Donovan Publish the Data Sharing and Governance Bill 2018

12th June, 2018

Bill sets out legal basis for the sharing of data between public bodies with appropriate safeguards

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, T.D., and the Minister of State for Public Procurement, Open Government and eGovernment, Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., today (Tuesday) published the Data Sharing and Governance Bill 2018, following recent approval by the Government.


The purpose of this Bill is to provide a generalised legal basis for the sharing of data between public bodies while also setting out appropriate safeguards under which such sharing should take place.


Enactment of this legislation will deliver tangible benefits to the public and to business. Sharing and reusing data will cut down on waste and duplication by ensuring that individuals and businesses should not have to supply the same information more than once to public bodies. More extensive data sharing will also support better policy development and more efficient and effective policy implementation.


The Bill also sets out a series of important governance measures to ensure that personal data is shared by public bodies in a lawful, proportionate and transparent manner in accordance with national and EU data protection law, including the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


Development of this legislation has also created an opportunity to provide for more consistent and improved safeguards in relation to public service data management. Accordingly, the scope of the governance provisions in the Bill go beyond the sharing of data and into strengthening how the public service manages its data in respect of how data is collected and processed, how data is kept secure, and how access to data is controlled, monitored and logged.


Minister Donohoe said: ‘This Bill is key to delivering on our public service reform commitments to expand digital delivery of services and make greater use of data. It will also provide for stronger governance and transparency by public service bodies in the way they share and manage data, which will assist public bodies in meeting the more stringent data protection requirements provided for under the GDPR.’


Minister of State O’Donovan added: ‘Significant opportunities are offered by making better use of data. Citizens and businesses can receive better services. Public bodies can operate more effectively and efficiently at a lower cost to the Exchequer. Better access to data will improve decision making and planning in the delivery of services.’


Minister of State O’Donovan went on to say, “The public also has a strong expectation that their data protection rights will be respected and public bodies will use personal data responsibly, proportionately and securely. As the volume of data and our capacity to deliver digital services grow, the opportunities to improve services increase — but so too must our governance of citizens’ data. This Bill will ensure that appropriate safeguards, accountability and transparency are in place to build the public’s trust in public bodies’ usage of their data. Accordingly, this Bill will be a very important stepping stone in helping take forward the Government’s ambition to be an exemplar in the processing of citizen data.”


The Bill is available here, along with its Explanatory Memorandum and a Regulatory Impact Analysis that was conducted when the general scheme of the Bill was being drafted.

Notes for Editors

Policy background

The introduction of legislation to support the public service in making better use of the data it holds is a key commitment in the Government’s reform programme. Enactment of this Bill is essential to the successful delivery of Action 1: Accelerate Digital Delivery of Services in Our Public Service 2020, the new framework for development and innovation in the public service. It is also one the 10 key actions in the eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020.


Key provisions of the Bill

The Bill provides a generalised legal basis for data sharing between public bodies for specific, legitimate purposes, including:

  • Making public services more seamless by reducing the burden of providing the same information to different public bodies;
  • Facilitating the effective administration, supervision and control of public services;
  • Establishing entitlements to public services;
  • Identifying and correcting erroneous information; and
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of public services.

The Bill also requires that sharing be carried out under a formal written data-sharing agreement that sets out in detail what data will be shared with whom and for what purpose. Data-sharing agreements will be published on the websites of the public bodies concerned in advance of any sharing taking place, and the public will be able to comment on the proposals.


In addition, the Bill includes a number of provisions to ensure better data governance across the public service through:

  • The establishment of a Data Governance Board to advise the Minister on data management policy in the public service;
  • Ministerial power to issue standards, codes and guidelines (some of which will be legally binding) in respect of data management across the public service; and
  • Quality assessments of draft Data Sharing Agreements by the Data Governance Board.

The Bill also seeks to significantly enhance transparency by providing a legal basis for the creation of a personal data access portal that will provide a single point of access for people to see what data is held about them by public bodies, how that data is used and who is using it.


Other key provisions in the Bill include powers to:

  • Establish base registries that will provide an authentic, authoritative and complete source of basic data about people, businesses and locations for use across the public service;
  • Issue a Unique Business Identifier Number (UBIN) for the purpose of uniquely identifying any undertaking that has a transaction with a public body and for the specification of a business information dataset that can be shared by public bodies in the performance of their functions.
  • Direct data sharing between public bodies where it is in the public interest and in compliance with data protection law; and
  • Collect and process public service data to support the administration of public service pension schemes (in particular the new single pension scheme) and to facilitate better analysis and evaluation of public service staffing, pay and pensions.