Revenue Minister Skelton lambasted

Canada Revenue Agency has come under scathing attack for its crisis management tactics.

Liberal Revenue critic Judy Sgro has publicly lambasted federal Revenue Minister Carol Skelton for ignoring the crashed e-tax filing system while her department in Ottawa was left scrambling to get the system back up and running.

Repeated efforts by to obtain clarification on the cause of the computing glitch and any reports on progress have also been ignored by CRA. Requests for meaningful information from CRA Commissioner Michel Dorais and Gloria Kuffner, chief information officer and assistant commissioner, were evaded.

Sgro posted a blunt message on the Liberal Party’s Web site on Friday, urging Skelton to “get back to Ottawa to address the needs of her crisis-stricken department.”

As millions of Canadians wait to file their tax returns, Sgro finds it incomprehensible that Skelton is in Saskatchewan.

“[While] her department is reeling in crisis, the Minister responsible is in Saskatchewan for a photo-op with the Prime Minister,” she says.

“It is completely unacceptable that she is absent on this issue when millions of taxpayers are waiting to file their returns. This is costing Canadians money with every passing day.

“[Skelton] can’t be giving this issue the attention it deserves from a photo-op in a farmer’s field in Saskatchewan.”

If this problem persists any longer, the tax filing deadline may have to be extended, says Sgro. Extending the deadline is a major decision that would require the Minister’s involvement, she adds.

“This problem is affecting millions of electronic and paper filers. This is the busiest time of year for CRA, and the Minister has been completely silent on the issue.”

The electronic filing service on CRA’s Web site has been down for almost a full week. “So far there has been no indication as to when it will be restored,” says Sgro. “The department is unable to predict when the problem will be fixed.”

This glitch is the latest in a series of mishaps at the CRA, the critic points out. According to Sgro, earlier this year Dorais told staff he would resign in April, following reports of privacy abuses at the agency, including the leak of Liberal MP Ken Dryden’s personal tax information by a CRA employee.

CRA also mistakenly mailed the social insurance numbers, income, address and marital status of 10 Canadians to an individual in Nova Scotia who had requested information about his RRSP contribution limit, adds Sgro.

The agency has suspended its services indefinitely, but says it’s working to have the system restored. Dorais on Friday made vague mention of the nature of the system downtime, referencing a problem with the computer databases.

“Our solution is working,” said Dorais. “In the past 24 hours we have successfully restored several databases.”

The commissioner was unable to predict when online services would resume. “CRA employees will be working through the weekend to continue to restore the rest [of the databases], and we expect to make good progress,” he said.

“Once we complete this phase of our recovery plan, we will work out the schedule to bring online services for individual taxpayers back online.”

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