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The Phoenix Pay System Slow Motion Disaster

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The Harper government made many promises about efficiencies, streamlining and value for tax dollars. As history now shows with the curtain pulled back, almost none of these proclamations were worth the paper they were printed on. Transparency actually equalled gag orders, non-disclosure agreements and unparalleled concentration of power out of the public view. And from that sprang a promise to modernize and simplify the pay system for Federal employees. A 40 year old system with almost 30 processing centres would be centralized into one new megasystem to pay all civil servants with a touted savings of $70 million dollars in three years before the system was even operational. Too good to be true? Yes, this was Harper-nomics.

One page out of over 360 in the 2009 Federal budget was all that would be mentioned publicly about this new megasystem until the end of the Harper reign, under the claims of "Increasing efficiency and effectiveness" and "Focusing on core role". The odd press release about contracts being awarded to the likes of IBM, with no details on how they were awarded, would be all the public ever knew. Internally, the warning signs piled up almost right from the start that an off-the-shelf payroll management program would simply not be adequate for the task. Even the supplier said so. The public sector said so. Minister after Minister did nothing to address the issue and the PMO with their gag orders kept employees quiet.

The new Trudeau government had the option of delaying or even stopping the coming disaster until it was known the Phoenix system would work. But they declined that option. Now we have a full-blown mess with 80,000 people being taken advantage of. But not a single MP seems to be short on their pay. Early estimates are an additional $20 million minimum to fix it. Guess who pays? You and I. The honeymoon is so over for the Trudeau government. Let's examine this epic failure.

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