Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote told a House of Commons committee Tuesday she still has confidence the people in her department are doing "the best they can" — even as the payroll issues of some 15,000 former or current public servants remain in a backlog of unresolved Phoenix cases.
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The government rolled out the Phoenix payroll system to some 120,000 federal employees in February 2016.
Despite urgings from public service unions to delay the full launch, the government unveiled the system to the entire public service in April.
Not long afterward problems were discovered, with some employees being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.
Backlog now at 83 per cent
In September, Foote assured her fellow MPs in the government operations and estimates committee that the backlog of some 82,000 cases would be eliminated by Oct. 31, saying she had "no reason not to believe" the deadline would be met.
But that deadline was missed, with her deputy Marie Lemay acknowledging last month the remaining cases were proving difficult to get through.
Meeting with the committee again on Tuesday, Foote said the department has now dealt with 83 per cent of the backlog.
When asked if she had lost confidence in what officials in her own department were telling her, Foote said she believed everyone was working hard.
"Everybody wanted a win here, and I know the department is working really hard. I have confidence that they are doing the best they can," said Foote.
'No one wants to do a bad job'
"No one wants to do a bad job. So clearly everybody is working as hard as they can to fix this problem."
When asked whether executives in the department would be receiving bonuses this year, Foote said she had her own personal opinion about bonuses but declined to share it.
Foote said instead that executive compensation was the purview of the deputy minister.
Lemay responded to the same question Tuesday by saying that any additional compensation was on hold pending a departmental review of the Phoenix issues.
Foote continued to blame the issues with the Phoenix payroll system on the decision by the previous Conservative government to lay off 700 compensation advisors prior to Phoenix's implementation.
She also stood by the government's decision to launch Phoenix, saying it was made with the information the department had on hand — which suggested the system was working.