Who’s to blame for the continuing foul-up of the federal government’s Phoenix payroll system? With both Conservative and Liberal governments involved there’s lots of finger-pointing.
The latest is a report from CBC News that project contractor IBM Canada is refusing to be the target. “Responsibility for training design and execution was transferred to the Crown in March 2014,” the broadcaster quotes IBM spokeswoman Carrie Bendzsa as saying. The current government has admitted that a lack of sufficient training for government staff on the system, which went live earlier this spring, was at least partly to blame for the chaos.
In July, when news broke, more than 80,000 of the 300,000 federal public servants were underpaid, while 720 new employees and students hadn’t seen paid at all since Phoenix went live in February.
The CBC says Conservative MP Diane Finley, who was the minister of Public Works at the time and responsible for overseeing the modernization project from 2013 to 2015, refused multiple requests for an interview on the IBM statement.
The Liberals are tossing this in the hands of the previous administration. “There was a cost associated with training, and it was made clear to me that the Conservatives opted to go with the train-the-trainer model versus buying the IBM training approach. In this case, savings were prioritized before the project was fully implemented,” Judy Foote, the current minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in a statement to CBC.
“It appears that when the previous government decided to go with Phoenix, the proper training wasn’t done and they tried to implement a system without a sufficient number of employees,” she added.
For their part the Conservatives are tossing it back into the Liberals’ laps. “If they weren’t ready and they knew about it … why would you go ahead and start the system if you’re now saying that you knew the training was insufficient?” Kelly McCauley, the Conservative critic of Public Services and Procurement is quoted as sayig.
“It goes back to, you knew it wasn’t ready to implement, so why would you?”
According to a government Web site set up to handle Phoenix-related questions from civil servants, it is still getting new cases — 47 new priority 1 cases are being dealt with, 145 priority 2 cases are being handled. There is still a backlog of 57,638 other cases.
On Sept. 21 the government issued a statement saying it is seeing “steady progress” in resolving all pay issues. “This pay period, we have resolved close to 10,000 cases in the backlog. This means that since early July, close to 24,500 employees with cases in the backlog have received the money owed to them. Our processing levels are on the rise and we are confident that we will meet our October 31st target” of eliminating complaints.