Ottawa

IBM did not bid on Phoenix replacement, government says

The company that set up the problem-plagued Phoenix payroll system did not bid on the contract to create a new payroll system, according the the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

5 companies remain in contention for the contract

In 2011, IBM was hired to implement, operate and maintain Phoenix, the federal public service pay system. Phoenix was launched in 2016 and has been plagued with glitches ever since, causing thousands of public servants to be improperly paid. (Toby Talbot/Associated Press)

The company that set up the problem-plagued Phoenix payroll system did not bid on the contract to create a new payroll system, according the the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Treasury Board President Jane Philpott was asked directly on Monday if IBM's involvement with the troubled pay system would prevent the company from working on the replacement.

"At this point I'm not going to say who's going to be in and who's going to be out. We're going to make sure that we pick the very best company," Philpott said.

Treasury Board President Jane Philpott listens to public servants' recommendations for a new pay system. (Antoine Trépanier/Radio-Canada)

Canada's Chief Information Officer Alex Benay, who is leading the search for a replacement system, responded similarly on Monday when asked if IBM's association with Phoenix ruled them out of contention.

"The answer to that is no," Benay said. "Whoever is left in it will be treated the same way, because at this point what matters more is that we pay people."

But on Tuesday a spokesperson from the Treasury Board emailed CBC stating that IBM had not submitted a bid to replace Phoenix.

Canada's Chief Information Officer Alex Benay says they are aiming to make recommendations this spring to replace the Phoenix pay system. (Antoine Trépanier/Radio-Canada)

"Canada did not receive a bid from IBM in response to this solicitation," the email read.

In 2011, IBM was hired to implement, operate and maintain Phoenix, the federal public service pay system. Phoenix was launched in 2016 and has been plagued with glitches ever since, causing thousands of public servants to be improperly paid.

IBM itself did not say whether they had bid on the contract or not. An email from an IBM spokesperson sent Monday stated that they do not comment on contract bids.

Recommendations coming in spring

The 2018 federal budget included $16 million over two years to fund the search for a payroll system to replace Phoenix.

Government officials have been talking to companies interested in landing the contract to design a new payroll and human resources system for federal employees since the process was launched in August of last year.

Five companies still remain in contention for the contract, whittled down from seven initial bids, according to the Treasury Board email.

Benay said Monday they are comfortable with the remaining bids but said they are focused on ensuring they make the best choice.

"The key is not who's there as the vendors. It's how we will chose to interact with those vendors to ensure we don't repeat some of our mistakes."

The Treasury Board has been holding 'user expos' throughout January and February to get public servants' feedback on a potential new pay system. (Antoine Trépanier/Radio-Canada)

Philpott was on hand at a "user expo" in Gatineau, Que. on Monday, where some possible replacement systems were displayed for public servants.

"We're taking all of that feedback, looking at a whole range of pay systems out there to make sure we pick the very best one," she said.

Benay said his team is aiming to have final recommendations for the government by this spring.

With files from Antoine Trépanier

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