Workers plan protest to crank up pressure on Foote to fix Phoenix

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Backlog of Phoenix pay problems shrinking, but underpaid workers still face ’long road’

09 March 2017 00:13:08 Ottawa Citizen - News

Government officials say they’ve turned the corner in trying to fix the troubled Phoenix civil service pay system. But Public Services and Procurement Canada deputy minister Marie Lemay says it’s still going to take months to deal with pay issues affecting thousands of employees who’ve been underpaid or overpaid since the system was introduced a little over a year ago. Some 7,000 federal workers in a backlog of cases that once stood at around 82,000 are still facing pay issues. Lemay said she expects that backlog to shrink significantly in the coming weeks as her department grapples with priority cases, such as those who’ve been improperly paid while on parental or disability leave, or while working temporarily in higher-paid roles. The deputy minister noted that there have been improvements in the government’s self-imposed service standard for dealing with new pay change requests. In particular, about 43 per cent of new transactions for disability leave are now being processed within what the government considers an acceptable amount of time — 20 business days — compared with just 22 per cent of cases last month. Many workers have expressed frustration at not being paid, sometimes for months, while on parental leave and the unions representing those workers have asked the government to make disability and parental leave payments a priority. Lemay said Wednesday she expects the vast majority of those files will meet the service standard by the end of this month or early April at the latest. For parental leave cases, the percentage of cases meeting expectations actually dropped, to 19 per cent dealt with on time compared with 22 per cent in February. “As much as I see today some good signs ... I say all that, but we still have a very long road ahead for people that have been waiting so long,” Lemay told a news briefing. “Their issues are not going to be resolved tomorrow for a lot of them.” Overall, the government has finally begun processing more transactions than it’s receiving, she said. “This is a very important milestone. It means that both the wait times and the overall number of pay requests awaiting processing will decrease.” There are about 100,000 government employees who are waiting to be paid top-ups for working in higher, so-called “acting” positions, said Lemay. The government said it’s been able to properly pay just nine per cent of civil servants who fall into that category, under a service standard of 30 business days, up from seven per cent last month. Lemay said her department is hoping to have that cohort’s pay issues resolved some time this spring. The country’s biggest public service unions have asked the government to set up a $75-million fund to help fix the system, saying they see no end in sight to the pay problems. They want Finance Minister Bill Morneau to include the money in his March 22 budget, so departments can hire more human-resources staff to resolve individual cases and train information-technology staff to build Phoenix-related expertise within the public service. Lemay also expressed surprise Wednesday at the number of civil servants who have come forward in recent days indicating they were unaware that they can apply for emergency pay to make up for any shortfall.

Vice null Time09 March 2017 00:13:08


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Reevely: The Phoenix pay system debacle turns one year old, with no fix in sight

23 February 2017 22:44:41 Ottawa Citizen - News

There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the federal government's catastrophically failed new payroll system, Canada's big public-service unions say, and they want a $75-million fund to help fix the mess. It'll be a minimum of six months before Phoenix is working properly, said Debi Daviau, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service, in a Parliament Hill news conference Thursday. But that's being optimistic because she's seen no detailed plan for actually achieving it. "They are making some progress," said Daviau. "What we're not seeing is an expedited resolution to the ongoing pay issues of our members." "It's not going to be weeks or months," agreed Chris Aylward, a vice-president of the mammoth Public Service Alliance of Canada. There's no sign that Phoenix has reached a "steady state." To help get there, they said, the next federal budget should include that $75-million fund that departments could draw on to hire more human-resources staff to fix individual messes, add and train information-technology staff to build Phoenix-related expertise within the public service, and help current staff who've been working overtime outside their usual duties to deal with a constant state of emergency, and suffering payroll problems themselves. The money, you'll have noticed, would at at least partly go to hiring more government workers. But tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of bad pay cases do rather suggest there's a problem. "No one should have to plead with their employer to be paid on time and correctly," said André Picotte, acting president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, in French, reasonably. Between them, Daviau's, Aylward's and Picotte's unions represent 240,000 public servants. People who have been underpaid, overpaid and clawed back later, unpaid entirely. Maternity and paternity leaves and disability benefits thrown all over, paperwork issued erroneously. Those who've escaped being "Phoenixed" are terrified of doing anything at all that might affect their pay, lest they come to Phoenix's attention and suffer its curse. Phoenix was touted as an "off-the-shelf" payroll system, an essentially standard version of Oracle's widely used PeopleSoft package tailored for the government's needs by IBM. That was supposed to be a better foundation than custom-built disasters like OC Transpo's Presto fare-payment system. Ha. (Spare a moment here for the thousands of Ottawa-Gatineau public servants who take the bus to work. What a time they've had.) IBM has said the main problems with Phoenix arose once it was in the government's hands — when staff were trained on it and data was imported. The Conservatives were in power at the time and the Liberals blame them for messing the project up; the Conservatives blame the Liberals for firing Phoenix up when it obviously wasn't ready. The assistant deputy minister most directly responsible for it retired three weeks ago. Marie Lemay, who probably thought her stint as chief executive of the National Capital Commission a few years ago would be her highest-profile job in the public service, is now the deputy minister who has to trudge out every few weeks to explain what's gone wrong since her last gong show. Now that it's tax season, Phoenix is barfing up T4 slips with the wrong information, or with accurate tallies of 2016's incorrect payments — a glorious capstone on Phoenix's year of misery. Pay your taxes anyway, says the Canada Revenue Agency, another branch of the same government that can't get salaries right. If you're a tax auditor, as some public servants in fact are, maybe you can manage it, Daviau said. Otherwise, "it's difficult to know even what the errors are." Although even if you're a public servant and you can tell your T4 is wrong, you can't fix it yourself, Aylward added — you have to go to Public Services and Procurement Canada and explain the error and get them to issue you a corrected one. It's now been one year since the Phoenix system — delayed for extra testing, but still on budget! — displaced hundreds of "compensation advisers" both in central roles at Public Services and Procurement Canada and in individual departments' payroll offices. One year since Canada's federal government has been unable reliably to fulfil the basic compact between an employer and its employees: You work and we'll pay you for it. The patchwork of payroll systems it replaced wasn't perfect at applying an estimated 80,000 "rules" for determining who should be paid what across the federal bureaucracy, but it wasn't a daily disaster. "The Phoenix debacle was not an accident. It was a result of ill-advised decisions," Aylward said. dreevely@postmedia.com twitter.com/davidreevely

Vice null Time23 February 2017 22:44:41


Phoenix: Paying PS comes first, recouping funds will follow, says minister

07 February 2017 22:58:37 Ottawa Citizen - News

OTTAWA -- The minister responsible for the federal government's troubled payroll system says she's more concerned about paying employees who haven't received what they're owed than she is about recouping money that's been overpaid. And Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote suggests those who have been paid too much put the extra money aside until a repayment schedule can be worked out. Foote's comments came Tuesday after the CBC reported the government has overpaid more than $68-million and has so far reached agreements to recover only about one third of the money. The minister suggested the exact amount owed to the government isn't known, because bureaucrats have been focused on fixing the system so tens of thousands of employees who haven't received proper paycheques get the money they've earned. Shortly after the government launched the Phoenix pay system last spring to replace several antiquated payroll systems, complaints began pouring in from public servants who had been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. By June of last year, the backlog of problem cases reached 82,000. That backlog has since been pared down to about 7,000 files, according to the latest count. But those files are considered to be exceptionally complicated and dealing with them has significantly slowed the processing of new payroll changes that have been filed over the last few months. In most cases, Foote's department says it can take up to three months for current and past employees to receive payments for overtime, temporary pay upgrades and other benefits that are in addition to regular pay. The government's main objective at the moment is to deal with underpayments, and improving its "service standard," Foote told reporters after a cabinet meeting Tuesday. "Our priority has been on making sure that those who were not getting paid for work performed get paid," said Foote. "We want to make sure that any hardship cases that are out there are dealt with. "We will get to those receiving overpayment." Just how much money was overpaid isn't yet clear, she said. Foote encouraged employees who have been overpaid to let her department know so their files can be worked on. In the meantime, she suggested anyone receiving more than what they're owed set the money aside. "I encourage any employees who are getting more money than they are entitled to, maybe to put it in a separate bank account," she said. "When it comes time to recover that money we will do it, and we will do it in a way that's respectful of those employees." Recovery methods can include lump sum payments or repayments over time, said Foote. The department was expected to provide another update on progress in fixing the Phoenix at a media briefing Wednesday.

Vice Alle News Time07 February 2017 22:58:37


Mandatory Phoenix pay training for DND employees falls short

24 January 2017 23:55:42 Ottawa Citizen - News

The Defence department’s plan to require all civilian employees to complete mandatory training on the controversial Phoenix pay system is limping along but has so far fallen short of expectations. All Department of National Defence employees were told they had until Oct. 7 to complete the training that is seen as critical to minimize errors affecting the problem-plagued federal government pay system, according to a message sent to employees and obtained by the Ottawa Citizen. DND estimated that in October around 70 per cent of the 24,900 civilian workers had already finished the training course. After the mandatory training was brought in, that figure increased to 75 per cent by early November, according to DND figures. Since then, the numbers have increased to 79 per cent for the period ending Dec. 12. That is the latest available figure, DND spokeswoman Suzanne Parker said Tuesday. “Even with the size and constant movement of employees within the department, we have seen an increase in uptake of the course and expect that upward trend to be sustained,” she added. Parker said although the Phoenix training is mandatory, given the size of the department and constant movement, “DND’s goal is to reach as many employees as possible and ensure they are properly equipped to understand the system and be able to manage within it.” Phoenix pay system foul-ups left thousands of Canada's public servants unpaid. But senior federal officials countered that many of the issues with the system were not technical, but linked to employees failing to properly fill out work-related information. Employees, however, pushed back against the claim they are to blame for the foul-ups. Some, for instance, have pointed out that one of the Phoenix glitches involved retired federal public servants continuing to get their weekly salary. Other employees have seen their pay doubled while some haven’t received any money at all. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked Jan. 17 by a seasonal contract worker from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B., about whether he will scrap the Phoenix system. Trudeau responded that those at the public service pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., are working hard to fix the problems. "Everyone deserves to get paid what they are owed," he said. Trudeau indicated the government would continue using the Phoenix system despite suggestions it revert back to the older pay system which worked. Phoenix was rolled out in February 2016. During the latest update in early January, federal officials acknowledged there is still a backlog of around 8,000 pay files that need to be dealt with. It is estimated that it will cost taxpayers more than $50 million to fix the computerized pay system. When it launched the system, the previous Conservative government estimated that Phoenix would save $70 million annually. dpugliese@postmedia.com Twitter.com/davidpugliese

Vice null Time24 January 2017 23:55:42


Phoenix jitters affects federal United Way campaign

09 December 2016 05:31:33 Ottawa Citizen - News

The federal government hopes to close in on its $19 million goal for this year’s United Way workplace campaign despite employees’ jitters about using the fickle Phoenix payroll system for their campaign donations. William Pentney, deputy minister at Justice and the campaign’s chair, said apprehensions about Phoenix reduced the number of employees using payroll deductions for their donations this year, but they didn’t put as much of a damper on the campaign as organizers had feared. The federal workplace campaign is the biggest in the country, with 80 per cent of donations typically come from payroll deductions. This year, that slipped to 70 per cent. About $14.6 million has been raised so far. “Seven out of 10 using payroll deduction is a bit of drop but I might have thought it would have been more dramatic than that,” said Pentney in an interview. Public servants can also donate using credit cards, PayPal, cash and e-pledges, but contributions have tended to be more generous when they can be extended over 26 pay cheques. The problem is Phoenix has worked so erratically that public servants could be afraid to risk making deductions for fear of fouling up their pay. Pentney said the campaign could fall short of its target but he is hopeful it will climb to the $19 million mark as donations continue to roll in before the campaign closes at the end of December. He said 25 of 101 departments have reached their goals. “It is difficult to know where we will come in,” he said. Last year, the active campaign ended with donations falling 25 per cent short of its $19 million target, but the gap was all but eliminated as contributions continued to flow in until the end of March. The deadline for making contributions by payroll deduction is Friday. That gives enough lead time for Phoenix to make deductions by the first payday in January. Departments run their own campaigns and some will continue canvassing into the new year or until they reach their goal. The majority wrap up at the end of the December. Canada’s public servants and federal retirees are historically the largest contributor to the United Way’s campaign. Last year, the campaign raised $33.6 million. In that campaign, nearly 68 per cent of public service donors used payroll deductions to make their contributions. Fears about using Phoenix, coupled with employees who faced pay shortfalls and feel unable to make contributions, were not the only pressures on this year’s campaign. Pentney said the pattern of giving is also changing. The number of public servants who contribute has declined over the past five years, but those who contribute give more. The government re-arranged the timing of this campaign to make sure Phoenix glitches were fixed, which changed the pace of the campaign. The campaign typically kicks off in September with full-out canvassing but that was delayed until November. That delay also left less time for canvassing and some feel pushed it too close to Christmas when people are getting ready for holiday spending or giving to seasonal charities. At the same time, digital technology is forcing United Way and the government to rethink its campaign. Young public servants, who are comfortable contributing online, crowdsourcing or with their smart phones, are drawn by different ways of fundraising. The youth cabinet of this year’s campaign launched the successful Project BE as part of this campaign to raise money to help Canadian youth struggling with mental health and addiction problems. It is holding an online auction on a pair of boxing gloves signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise money for mental health. “We raise funds and awareness and are encouraging volunteerism in organizations that work in those areas,” said Tasha Taylor, the campaign's national youth co-chair. Phoenix, the government’s new automated pay system, was rolled out in two stages in February and April. Problems began from the start, with thousands complaining they were unpaid, overpaid or not paid enough. The payroll deduction feature of Phoenix has been installed in the fall, tested and is working. Payroll deductions for last year’s contributions have been made without glitches. Last year, the average donation among federal workers in the National Capital Region was $474.

Vice null Time09 December 2016 05:31:33


Phoenix was doomed once pay advisers laid off, Minister Judy Foote says

30 November 2016 04:32:59 Ottawa Citizen - News

Public Services Minister Judy Foote says the Phoenix pay crisis could have been avoided if the federal government had kept the 700 compensation advisers who were laid off before the new payroll system was up and running. Foote told MPs on the Commons government operations committee Tuesday that the Phoenix project was flawed, poorly planned and executed, but that the rollout of the new system was doomed because so many of the experienced staff who understood the government’s complex and arcane pay rules were let go. “Pay transformation was compromised as soon as the decision was taken to eliminate the jobs of some 700 compensation staff before we had transitioned to Phoenix," Foote said. “Had we kept those jobs longer, we would not be in the situation we are in today.” Foote, the minister responsible for the government’s payroll system, was grilled by MPs about the ill-fated Phoenix project in her first committee appearance since the government missed its own Oct. 31 deadline to clear the thousands of pay problems that have affected 82,000 public servants. Foote said the government still has 15,000 cases to resolve despite the department’s best efforts to clear that backlog. It has now assigned a special dedicated team of compensation advisers to handle them. She said most of those employees are owed supplementary payments but “missing any pay is concerning and a priority to address.” Several weeks ago, Treasury Board president Scott Brison said his big lesson from the Phoenix experience was to keep the old system until the new system was working. The old pay system was decommissioned with the second rollout of Phoenix in April. The previous Conservative government approved the transformation plan to bring in Phoenix. Under the plan, the government eliminated 700 jobs of compensation advisers working in 46 departments and centralized their pay operations in a new pay centre in Miramichi, N.B. The elimination of those jobs were responsible for much of the $70 million a year the government hoped to save with Phoenix. Public Services and Procurement Canada had to recruit about 550 new employees when nearly all of the 700 experienced compensation advisers who lost their jobs declined to move to Miramichi, opting instead to retire or find other jobs. Foote said a big problem in the rollout of Phoenix was the volume of work and inadequate training which left newly recruited pay advisers in Miramichi unable to handle the workload. She blames the Conservatives for putting savings ahead of employees. “The government needed a new pay system; however, the planning of Phoenix and the broader pay transformation initiative were driven by cuts instead of service," Foote said. " The former government sought annual savings of $70 million at the expense of employees." Foote told MPs she felt the rollout could gone much more smoothly if the 700 compensation advisers were around to help those working at Miramichi. Another 55 departments kept their own compensation advisers. The government had planned to move the services of those departments to Miramichi, but that has been put on hold until Phoenix’s glitches have been sorted out. The department is examining its original plan in the fallout of Phoenix but Foote confirmed that Miramichi and its employees who have now become the government's “Phoenix experts” will remain the government’s central pay centre. In fact, she said, their advice is also key to finding solutions for Phoenix's problems. “Miramichi is here to stay,” said Foote. “We have dedicated employees there and they are working so hard.” She has also indicated that the more than 200 compensation advisers hired to help clear the backlog will remain as long as they are needed. In fact, Foote said, a key lesson from the Phoenix debacle is the “need to consult widely and validate,” including with unions and front-line compensation advisers. “I have told my department to review the plan and its assumptions with other client departments, employees and unions. This focus on validation will ensure we have a robust and reliable go-forward approach. Many good ideas on how to improve the pay system have come from front-line compensation advisers." Foote, however, was unable to say when the Phoenix would be running at its “steady state” — when the system will in theory be running smoothly and without glitches. She said the department has a plan with three aims, which she hopes will get Phoenix to steady state. The first priority is to get rid of the backlog, followed by speeding up the processing of cases and developing a “process for validation and improvement.”’ The Phoenix fixes are expected to cost an extra $50 million this year, which will eat into the projected $70 million savings. The funding includes: • $5.7 million for additional support from IBM, such as 24/7 troubleshooting support, and refinements to the system; • $24 million for four satellite offices and call centres; • $16.1 million for our complaints centre; training and support to departments; and system maintenance; • $4.2 million for contingencies.

Vice null Time30 November 2016 04:32:59


Government misses Halloween deadline to clear Phoenix backlog

31 October 2016 23:30:07 Ottawa Citizen - News

Public Services and Procurement Canada has missed its promised Halloween deadline to clear the backlog of pay problems caused by the Phoenix pay system, as the cases of 22,000 public servants remain unresolved, the department’s top bureaucrat says. Deputy minister Marie Lemay said the department couldn’t meet the self-imposed Oct. 31 target because the remaining cases are older and much more complicated than the front end of the pile and require much more work than expected. Lemay said she is disappointed the deadline was missed but that the department did everything it could. "I would love to tell you we cleared the backlog, but nobody can say there is something else we could have tried. We did everything we could. We cleared 75 per cent of the backlog.” Lemay said the next step is to develop a new plan that will take the department to “steady state” when all the bugs are ironed out and transactions are being processed smoothly, on time and accurately. As of Monday, the department had resolved the pay issues of more than three quarters of the 82,000 people who had been caught in the backlog as of the end of June. The queue of cases sitting at the Miramichi, N.B., pay centre to be processed is said to be growing, but the department resists calling it a backlog. At the last technical briefing, Lemay said the department was still driving to meet the deadline but she expected it would fall short. At that time, Lemay said the department had hoped to resolve all but 15,000 by the next payday on Wednesday. The setback came as no surprise to unions, which organized a day of protest Monday over Phoenix — and delays in collective bargaining. Unions capitalized on the missed deadline with a “trick and treat” theme, staging a noon rally outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to pressure the government into fixing the botched pay system once and for all. The pay centre in Miramichi already had a backlog of 40,000 cases when the government decided to go live with the first Phoenix rollout in February. Lemay said about 80 per cent of the remaining 22,000 files came from that pre-Phoenix backlog. The Oct. 31 deadline was the date Public Services had hoped to start the transition to what it calls a “steady state.” The backlog the government was committed to clearing only included the cases of the 46 departments, covering about 191,000 employees, that sent their pay transactions for processing at the pay centre in Miramichi by the end of June. The other 55 departments manage their own compensation with in-house pay advisers. They also face Phoenix glitches but the problems are reportedly not as bad as those at Miramichi. The unions, however, also believe there has been a new backlog of cases growing since July 1 that the government isn’t acknowledging. The Phoenix pay system was rolled out to 300,000 public servants working in 101 departments and agencies in two waves: one in February, the second in April. From the start, employees began reporting problems, which the government downplayed until July, when it acknowledged that thousands of employees had experienced problems. Public Services opened a temporary pay centre in Gatineau, a new call centre and several other offices, and recruited more than 200 temporary pay advisers to clear the backlog.

Vice null Time31 October 2016 23:30:07


Government admits Phoenix pay problems won't be sorted by Halloween deadline

20 October 2016 06:18:15 Ottawa Citizen - News

Public Services and Procurement Canada will likely miss its promised Oct. 31 deadline to clear the backlog of pay problems caused by the federal government’s bungled Phoenix payroll system, says the department’s top bureaucrat. Deputy Minister Marie Lemay confirmed Wednesday the department will have problems meeting the target because the remaining cases are older and more complicated than the front end of the pile and require more manual inputting and updating of information than originally expected. She said the department is “driving” to clear the backlog but is braced for about 15,000 cases to remain after the deadline. As of Wednesday, the department had resolved the pay problems of about 62 per cent of the people caught in the backlog, which began with 82,000 cases. “We are still driving for the 31st,” said Lemay. “We’re going to give it our best shot but … the transactions in there are complex ones, so what we see that might happen is we might be left on the 31st with a number of transactions of the same nature, very complex.” The pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., already had a backlog of 40,000 cases when the government decided to go live with the first Phoenix rollout in February. Lemay was unable to say how many of the remaining cases came from that pre-Phoenix backlog. The Oct. 31 deadline was the date Public Services had hoped to start the transition to what it calls a "steady state", with the bugs worked out and Phoenix running smoothly. On the last payday — two weeks ago — Lemay insisted, “We believe we are on target and will clear the backlog by Oct. 31.” On Wednesday, however, she admitted she had no idea when Phoenix would be working "flawlessly" or operating in what she calls the steady state. Public Services Minister Judy Foote said she is disappointed about the missed deadline but is “contented” with the work that has been done. She said the government will keep the more than 200 compensation advisers hired to clear the backlog until “all issues” around Phoenix are resolved. “The fact we have the majority of cases taken care of is good news. But I know there are still some people facing hardships and that bothers me. But we are going to continue to work hard to clear up the entire backlog.” Lemay said only about 30 per cent of transactions are now being handled within the service standards set by the department. She said the department had 79 new cases on Wednesday of public servants who did not get paid as they should have been. They are the government’s priority and will be paid before the next payday, Lemay said. She said the number of people facing problems linked to leave jumped dramatically this week to 894, largely because of a surge in the number of people going on maternity and paternity leave. Their problems should be addressed within six weeks, she said. Federal unions have increasingly voiced skepticism about meeting the Oct. 31 target, accusing the department of "playing with numbers." The government’s commitment only included the cases of the 46 departments, covering about 191,000 employees, that sent their pay transactions for processing at the pay centre in Miramichi by the end of June. The other 55 departments manage their own compensation with in-house pay advisers but have also faced Phoenix glitches. It’s unclear how many of these cases are outstanding or when their problems will be fixed. Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said she believes the backlog is much bigger than 82,000 cases that accumulated by the end of June. She said new cases sent to Miramichi since July have problems, too, but they are sitting in a queue and are not considered part of the backlog. “There is whole other backlog going on there that no one knows anything about,” said Daviau. Daviau said some of her members have complained their cases are being partially resolved, which takes then off the backlog. The remaining problems have to be refiled and are handled as new cases. The Phoenix pay system was rolled out to 300,000 public servants working in 101 departments and agencies in two waves: one in February, the second in April. From the start, employees began reporting problems, which the government downplayed until July, when it acknowledged that thousands of employees had had problems. Public Services opened a temporary pay centre in Gatineau, a new call centre and several other offices, and recruited more than 200 temporary pay advisers to clear the backlog.

Vice null Time20 October 2016 06:18:15


Bureaucrat who led Phoenix project shuffled aside in executive shakeup

13 October 2016 03:20:29 Ottawa Citizen - News

The senior bureaucrat who led the implementation of the ill-fated Phoenix pay system has been moved from the job in a shakeup of the senior ranks at Public Services and Procurement Canada. Rosanna Di Paola, Public Services' associate assistant deputy minister of accounting, banking and compensation, was shuffled on Wednesday into a job as a senior adviser and will “continue to support the pay modernization project, “ according to an internal memo sent by PSPC deputy minister Marie Lemay. She will be replaced by Marc Lemieux, who comes from Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, the regional agency Lemay headed before she was catapulted into Public Services in April in the midst of the Phoenix foul-ups that have continued to dog the new public service pay system. Lemieux was the agency’s executive director of corporate services, and acting vice-president of operations. Di Paola’s move was among five senior changes in the department as it nears its promised Oct. 31 deadline to clear a backlog that has affected 80,000 employees. That’s when the department hopes to start the transition to what it calls the “steady state”, when the bugs are worked out and Phoenix runs smoothly. The department estimates Phoenix fixes will cost $50 million by the end of the year. Lemay, six month into the job as deputy minister, announced the changes as part of a ‘townhall’ with all executives to explain her vision for the department. Other moves include Tammy Labelle as assistant deputy minister of the Integrated Service Branch; Gini Bethell as Chief Information Officer and Donna Achimov, head of the Translation Bureau becomes assistant deputy minister of human resources. Di Paola had become the lightning rod for criticism of the Phoenix debacle, which is now the subject of an internal probe and an investigation by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson into how the $300-million project went off the rails. Lemay has said she expects the probes will find “multiple points of failure.” Di Paola, who had led the project since 2013, accompanied Lemay at many of the technical briefings the department held every payday and was among the key departmental witnesses at the parliamentary committee hearing into the fiasco. She was only senior PSPC bureaucrat who testified at a labour tribunal hearing into whether the federal government is breaking the law by not paying thousands of public servants properly and on time. Di Paola infuriated unions when she testified that the big problems with Phoenix were training and public servants' plugging wrong or untimely information into the system. She also said transaction processing times at the Miramichi, N.B., pay centre were slower than expected. “She is the one person who, by her own self-admission, was responsible for the new pay system but blamed everyone except the very department responsible for implementing the pay system,” said Chris Aylward, vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "I wish her all the best in her future endeavours." PSAC has been particularly critical of PSPC management responsible for the project for ignoring the union's pleas to slow down or delay the Phoenix rollout because departments and the new Miramichi pay centre were not ready. Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Di Paola and other senior bureaucrats failed to fully and properly brief Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote about the risks of implementing Phoenix. Foote, for example, was never briefed about an independent study by Gartner Consulting, commissioned as Phoenix was about to go live, and the risks it flagged. “All we hear about is the blame rests with those other than the people who made the decision to go ahead,” said Daviau. “I have said for a while that the department needs to start putting people aside and look inward to other public servants to make this system work. "The executives in charge of the implementation should be put aside. They are not succeeding." As a government-wide project, Phoenix had many players, and all departments had a role to play to ensure they were ready when Phoenix went live. Many argue the project shines the light on how diffuse accountability has become in the public service, particularly for large projects. Lemay has said performance pay for executives managing the Phoenix rollout would be on hold until officials finish the internal review into what went wrong. She said no one in the department has received performance pay or bonuses for 2015-16. However, officials recently learned that the government expects to begin processing performance pay for other executives after Oct. 31 so it can be reflected on their T4 slips. In fact, the Phoenix teams are now scrambling to deal with all the tax implications created by the Phoenix foul-ups. The department has only six paydays to resolve tax issues by the end of the year. For employees who have been overpaid, the government has created a repayment plan with several options so they can repay the money before Dec. 31 to avoid any tax implications and possible financial hardship. Employees who have been overpaid by more than 10 per cent of their gross pay can repay in lump sum payments or instalments. The government has promised to pay out-of-pocket costs caused by Phoenix.

Vice null Time13 October 2016 03:20:29


Deadline for clearing Phoenix backlog only applies to half of government departments

06 October 2016 22:55:34 Ottawa Citizen - News

The senior bureaucrat overseeing the federal government’s botched payroll system confirmed Wednesday that not all pay problems affecting Canada’s public servants will be resolved by the promised Oct. 31 deadline. Marie Lemay, Public Services’ deputy minister, insisted the government is on track to clear the backlog of 82,000 cases created by the Phoenix pay system that were sent by 46 federal departments for processing to the pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., by officials' self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline. “We’re really on target,” she told reporters during a briefing Wednesday. “The next month is a big month, but we believe we are on target. ... We believe we will clear the backlog for the 31st.” But the deadline only applies to the 46 departments that were sending their payroll processing to Miramichi, which covers about 191,000 employees and has 550 compensation advisers . Lemay was unable to say what happens to employees facing Phoenix foulups who work for 55 other departments that manage their own compensation and don’t use Miramichi. Employees in those departments have also faced Phoenix glitches since the first rollout that have left them underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. And it’s unclear how many of these cases are outstanding or when their pay problems will be fixed. Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service, questions whether the Oct. 31 deadline will be met. She said the department is “playing with numbers." She said most public servants had the impression that all problems would be resolved by Oct. 31 and not just those from 46 departments received before the end of June. “What hasn’t come out before is the difference between the cases reported as backlog as of the end of the June and the new cases that have come in,” she said. “I don’t see them meeting their deadline, but I hope they do,” said Daviau. “I think they are painting a very rosy picture and the facts suggest it is not as rosy as they would have you believe.” The Phoenix pay system was rolled out to 300,000 public servants working in 101 departments and agencies in two waves — one in February, the second in April. From the start, employees began reporting pay problems, which the government downplayed as the growing pains of a new system until July, when it acknowledged that thousands of employees had been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. That’s when the department revealed that as of the end of June that Miramichi alone had a backlog of 82,000 people with pay problems. Public Services opened a temporary pay centre in Gatineau, a new call centre and several other offices, and it recruited 200 temporary pay advisers to clear the backlog so Miramichi could focus on the flow of regular pay transactions. The other 55 departments have 900 payroll staff who are managing their pay problems. For example, Statistics Canada's pay advisers informed employees this week that it hoped to resolve most problems by Oct. 31 but that issues dealing with extra pay for promotions or acting positions won’t be fixed until the end of November. Lemay said the number of problems facing employees in the other departments don’t appear to be as large or as complex as those in departments using Miramichi, partly because there are fewer employees. “The rest of the departments that have their own compensation advisers so … from the information that we've gathered in talking to them, they are having the same issues that everybody is having in terms of getting comfortable with the system … but the backlog as such doesn't seem to be of the nature of ours,” she said. To meet the looming month-end deadline, Public Services would have to clear a backlog of more than 43,772 cases. It has cleared some 38,228 cases since it began tackling the backlog of 82,000 cases in July. Lemay said the number of new cases keeps declining, with 41 new cases of public servants not getting paid Wednesday. They are the government’s priority and they are supposed to be paid this week or by the next pay day. Another 173 people who reported pay problems this week linked to going on leave, leaving the public service or retiring, are considered Priority 2 cases whose problems should be addressed within six weeks. But some public servants say a shadow — or undeclared — backlog has been growing at Miramichi since July. They say the pay centre is unable to deal with the volume within the promised 20 days in its service standard. Lemay admitted the pay centre is working more slowly than expected and has been unable to meet its service standards. She said that would improve once the backlog is cleared and the 200 extra pay advisers hired to work on the backlog can be redeployed to help Miramichi. “There are people in the queue and we're not being able to meet the service standards that we had prior to Phoenix in terms of treatment, but that part, remember that the minute that we're done with the backlog on, on Oct. 31, we've got 200 people, more than 200 people, that are actually going to be helping us to get to that steady state.” Some argue that relying on these temporary compensation advisers hired to clear the backlog raises questions whether they will be needed permanently to handle the day-to-day volume. The Treasury Board’s new claims office, meanwhile, is up and running to reimburse the out-of-pocket expenses of public servants who have faced financial hardship. Treasury Board officials confirmed they had received 52 claims so far, totalling about $30,400. Of the 52 claims, 12 were for out-of-pocket expenses exceeding $500 and 40 were for less than $500. Lemay also said that IBM, the technology giant that built Phoenix, has been a “good partner” and the government has no plans to take any court action over the foul-ups like the government in Queensland, Australia, did over a payroll project it hired IBM to do. "We have no reason to sue IBM right now," Lemay said. "IBM is respecting its contract. They have been good partners. When we find issues that have to be corrected, they're right there. They're correcting it." Lemay said the Queensland case was getting underway as the PSPC went to tender for a contractor to build its pay system. The Australian lawsuit was resolved earlier this year in IBM's favour.

Vice null Time06 October 2016 22:55:34