If you ever wanted an example of government bureaucracy run amok, you need look no further than the Phoenix payroll system, which continues to be a thorn in the side of the federal government, and a huge problem for the bank accounts of federal employees.
The beauty of this particular boondoggle is that it is a completely bipartisan screw up; begun way back in 2009 by the Conservatives and continued to be mishandled by the Liberals, beginning in 2015 and to this day.
The cost saving electronic payroll system, begun as an investment in consolidating and modernizing government processes, has now cost several hundred million dollars, with more spending to come, and all the problems are still not fixed. In fact, its replacement is being pondered before it ever worked at all.
Problems include a huge number of employees not being paid. Now I don’t know about you but, much as I enjoy my job most days, I don’t do it out of the goodness of my heart. I kind of want compensation for my work.
Another issue is former or retired government employees who continue to be paid. That’s a good problem to have I guess. Until the man calls and says “you owe us $12,000”.
One of the first signs of trouble, per ITworldcanada.com, was in 2014 when the government, for some unexplained reason, decided to take over responsibility for training design and execution of the new system from IBM, who had been awarded the contract to update the service.
In May 2014, IBM recommended delaying the rollout of the system due to “critical problems with the system”.
But there were already so many complaints about people not being paid that staff could’t keep up. Staff at that time were working out of two temporary facilities while waiting for the new payroll office to be built in Miramichi and though they were supposed to be able to handle 184,000 payroll files, they couldn’t even handle 72,000.
Then there was a period of months in 2016 where another huge flaw in the system allowed the personal details of 300,000 employees to be viewed by some 70,000 public servants, should they be interested.
The Canadian government laid off 2700 payroll clerks in February of 2016. I mean why do you need so many clerks when you’ve got this new, smooth system?
March 9, 2016 was the first payday under the new system, according IT World Canada.
By April, the Public Service Alliance reported that thousands of its members were not being paid.
So the government rolled out the second phase, adding 170,000 more employees to be paid, without figuring out the full extent of the problems because… reasons.
“240,000 employees are scheduled to be paid via Phoenix on May 4. Complaints emerge across the country of workers not being paid. Public Services and Procurement Canada blames other departments for not inputting paperwork properly.” IT World Canada.
100 additional employees are hired. Meanwhile the Union takes the government to court.
By September 2016, there is still a backlog of 67,000 people with payroll problems and the government is handing out up to $50 million to fix the problem.
IBM blames the Conservatives for taking over training and execution way back in 2014.
In December of 2016 the union and government agree to form a new committee to work together on solving the problem. Still waiting for word on how that’s going.
In August of 2017, the payroll department is processing only 49 per cent of payroll transactions within service standards.
The government is coming to the shocking realization that the whole system may need to be replaced. The last budget set aside $16 million for that. I’m sure that’s all they’ll need. Maybe it’s all they’ve got considering $432 million has already been dedicated to fixing the Phoenix system.
And this week the Senate issued a report damning the lack of responsibility by anyone involved in the mess, of either party.
“Instead of realizing $70 million in annual savings by centralizing pay operations, the government will incur approximately $2.2 billion in unplanned expenditures. By any measure, the Phoenix pay system has been a failure,” says the report.
And these guys are going to build a pipeline.