Ontario’s new computer system ‘a total mess’: Union

A computer glitch that resulted in the overpayment of up to $20 million in government cheques to welfare and disability recipients in Ontario is just one of the many problems with the province’s new computer system.

The province spent some $240 million on its new Social Assistance Management System (SAMS). The system, which went live Nov. 12, that is supposed to help improve the processing and administration of social assistance in Ontario, but the system is so full of “design flaws” that it is actually creating chaos for caseworkers and their clients, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The union represents workers at the Ontario Disability Support and Ontario Works.

In a statement issued Sunday CUPE said “the government was warned months ago that the new system was flawed and would cause chaos in the programs.”

The statement said that Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union to the government that the new system “had too many flaws.”

“The government has spent four years and $250 million on this system,” said Thomas. “All it has accomplished so far is havoc in the office, overpayment to recipients and now there’s a possibility some may not receive any money prior to the holidays.”

“It’s a total mess that could have been avoided if the government had listened to the workers instead of relying on software consultants,” he said.

Last week, news broke out that a software glitch caused the system to queue cheques to for welfare and disability recipients which resulted in overpayments to some people. The total amount was recorded at $20 million.

The Ministry of Social Services said it will contact the people that were overpaid.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Carrie Poole-Cotnam, chair of CUPE’s social services committee, said this was not the only problem.

She said the new system actually added new steps to tasks that caseworkers did. For example, the task of adding a new child to a welfare case used to take six steps, now the same process take “over 100 steps.”

She also said that since last Friday some people on welfare are not seeing receiving the funds due then in their accounts.

The ministry issued a statement saying that recipients who get their benefit through direct banking methods have had access to their funds since Friday and those that receive cheques in the mail will get them by Monday.

More than 11,000 users completed training in SAMS in approximately 257 offices. The training was provided to all municipal and ministry staff that will be using the system.

Thomas said the older system is still operating and can be used while the kinks on the new system are eliminated.

“There are real, live people depending on this….they shouldn’t be held hostage because the government won’t admit they implemented a faulty computer program,” he said.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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