Report rang warning bells about federal government’s problem-plagued Phoenix payroll system

Over 57,000 employees still need to have pay issues resolved and new cases continue to emerge.
Over 57,000 employees still need to have pay issues resolved and new cases continue to emerge. (Photo: REUTERS/Blair Gable)

Since the federal government’s Phoenix payroll system rolled out in February 2016, problems have continued to tail it. Over 80,000 federal employees failed to be paid properly, either getting paid too little, too much, or not at all.

Though the government has attempted to fix the problems with the system, over 57,000 employees still need to have pay issues resolved and new cases continue to emerge. The government claims that it will have all pay issues resolved by October 31, 2016.

In the meantime, the problems continue. One public servant, fed up with the pay issues, sued the government and ended up being overpaid due to yet another glitch in the system.

And just two days ago, the payroll system had an outage that the government claimed was linked to a “storage space issue” but just demonstrated that system glitches continue to trouble the system.

Not only is the government currently trying to feverishly resolve a backlog of pay problems but also admitted that the price tag to fix the problem could rise as high as $50 million.

It turns out that before the Phoenix system was even rolled out, there were two independent reports prepared, one of which rang warning bells. For some reason, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, Judy Foote, was only briefed on one of them and that was the less critical report, but Foote claims that the reports weren’t so “significantly different” that she had to be advised on both.

While the first report recommended going ahead with the rollout of the system, it did outline that there were likely to be problems but that those “will be manageable.”

The report that she wasn’t briefed on, the Gartner report, raised concerns about lack of testing and the probability of glitches occurring: "Gartner has identified only one criterion with a high probability of occurring, and a high negative impact, and that is with testing and the implications of outstanding defects, and yet to be identified defects."

The report also recommended scaling back the number of government departments in which the new system would be implemented among concerns of how defects would be handled.

Seems that the second report is the one she should have been briefed on.

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