Canadian federal payroll system will take years to fix, warns auditor general

But he also says it does not make sense to scrap the system, which took seven years to develop and implement at a cost of C$310 million.

It will take years to fix the Canadian federal government’s troubled payroll system and cost much more than the C$540 million (US $424 million) set aside to do so, the country’s auditor general has warned.

Michael Ferguson concluded in his Fall 2017 report that Public Services and Procurement Canada, the department responsible for the Phoenix system, was slow to recognise the seriousness and depth of the problems facing it.

But glitches and design flaws in the applications led to thousands of federal employees being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. It also created a backlog of more than 150,000 workers with outstanding pay requests, about half of the 290,000 currently being paid through Phoenix. Not all departments have begun to use it as yet.

But despite the problems, Ferguson said that it did not make sense to scrap the system, which took seven years to develop and implement at a cost of C$310 million (US$244 million).

“If they started all over again, it’s hard to see how they would actually end up in a better situation,” he said. “I think at this point, their only real option is to try and resolve the problem with the system as it exists right now.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough said: “We can’t take our eyes off the ball, we need to stabilise the current system…but to be very clear, we cannot defer any resources away from stabilising. We have 300,000 people we need to pay every two weeks.”

But she added that she was currently looking into pay fixes that “may or may not result in Phoenix being the long-term solution”.

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