Ottawa

Several Phoenix pay system replacements expected to get test runs

The minister responsible for replacing the federal government's disastrous civil-service pay system says a series of pay "experiments" will likely be tested alongside Phoenix, created by IBM.

Announcement at 1 p.m. ET today by Treasury Board

Treasury Board President Joyce Murray is expected to outline how the government plans to develop a new payroll system to replace Phoenix. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The minister responsible for replacing the federal government's disastrous civil-service pay system says a series of pay "experiments" will likely be tested alongside Phoenix.

Treasury Board President Joyce Murray is to announce the next steps at 1 p.m. ET today toward creating a new human-resources and pay system for roughly 300,000 government employees.

For several months, the government has been working with pay-system suppliers to see which could replace IBM's Phoenix, which has improperly paid more than half of all federal workers by depositing too much money in their bank accounts, short-changing them, or in some cases not paying them at all for long periods.

Murray is expected to outline how the government plans to develop a new system.

Contracting several potential providers to test their wares in particular departments is a better way of creating a new system than hiring just one supplier, Murray said Tuesday as she left a cabinet meeting.

"From my perspective, that's the right way forward, because we'll be figuring out the challenges before we're going live with a new system," she said.

"We may have to have the old system in parallel with the new pay experiments as we go forward."

No deadlines, cost expected yet

While the government has slowly whittled down its number of pay errors, the government pay centre was still dealing with a backlog of cases totalling 239,000 at the end of last month.

The previous Conservative government projected the Phoenix system would save taxpayers $70 million annually, but the cost of stabilizing it — and searching for a replacement system — is now estimated to have surpassed $1.1 billion.

It's expected to reach $1.5 billion, according to the last federal budget, and could reach $2.6 billion by the time work is done.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer said last month the replacement should be cheaper on a per-employee basis than Phoenix and its predecessor, known as Regional.

The government is expected to steer clear of announcing a firm deadline or full cost projection for its new pay system today.

"We're going to focus on the project as being the priority," said Murray.

"Budgets and timelines are not the driver."

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