Money for nothing: pay glitch keeps cheques coming for some public servants

Many public servants across the country have been waiting months to get a paycheque but some people are also coming forward with stories about getting paid too much.

Some government workers getting 2 paycheques and random bank deposits

Many public servants across the country have been waiting months to get a paycheque but some people are also coming forward with stories about getting paid more than they have earned.

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The federal government introduced its new Phoenix payroll system, designed by IBM, in February, but ongoing problems have meant some federal workers are now facing financial difficulties.

But some employees are also trying to give money back to the government.

Here are a few stories CBC Ottawa received about public servants getting paid for work they didn't actually do.

'No one seems able to stop my pay!'

A former public servant who wanted to be anonymous wrote: I had a contract with Citizenship and Immigration that ended in January. However, I am still being paid. I have emailed my former department and the pay centre back in Miramachi several times, but no one seems able to stop my pay! In the meantime I have it all put aside waiting for someone to sort this out. Fortunately, this is a minor inconvenience for me, and I feel for those that aren't getting what they are due, but it's also indicative of the mess that has happened with transferring pay and benefits out of local offices.

$8,000 wrongly deposited into account

Another former public servant who wanted to be anonymous wrote: There has been much media coverage on the Phoenix mess, with most articles covering the fact that federal employees or students are not being paid. I would like people to know that this mess goes further. In my case, I have been overpaid. On May 18, 2016, I received two pay cheques plus an amount of over $8,000 that was deposited in my bank account (I have no idea why this amount was deposited). I was paid twice again on June 1.

I opened a separate bank account to ensure that I will be able to return the money once someone figures out what happened. My concern is that there are probably people out there who have financial difficulties and may actually spend these overpayments instead of putting the money aside. These individuals would be in trouble once the federal government gets at them to get the money back. I understand that receiving too much money does not compare to people who get nothing but this type of situation must still be addressed and, for me, is quite uncomfortable.

Another issue with Phoenix is that if you change jobs, as well as groups and levels, the system automatically puts you right back at the minimum level of the pay rate even if you were at the maximum level in your previous job. That has happened to me, so I am currently being paid $10,000 less per year that I should be. So, I will have to return money to the government which also owes me money....not sure how I will figure this out.   

'Please stop paying me'

Odette wrote: I retired three years ago and have worked "on call" when my former division has emergencies or is short staffed. I worked at Global Affairs. My problem with Phoenix is that they keep paying me though I have worked only 11 days (in March) of a three-month contract. I have submitted attendance records for only 11 days, yet they still pay me. I have called Phoenix four times (not a small feat) explaining the conditions of my contract and asking them to please stop paying me. I have been told every time that they were going to deal with it urgently however, every two week, I still get a paycheque deposited directly into my bank account even though I have not submitted any time sheets.

I understand that my issue is not as serious as the ones who are not being paid but really, I would think that one phone call should do the trick. The last agent told me that there was nothing that could be done until the end of my the meantime, they are contributing to my pension, union dues, and sending me paycheques, etc... I suspect the next tax season will be complicated.

'Amount of the overpayment is huge'

Fabienne wrote:  I left a government department on December 31, 2015, and continued to get paid until the end of April 2016.  I've been in touch with someone at Miramichi every two to three weeks since then about how and when I might pay them back, and the reply is always, 'We are waiting for the system to produce the amount and the letter.' 

I'm very worried that I will be somehow penalized for this; not to mention that it will throw off my taxes and benefits (I am earning income in my new job with a crown corporation).  The amount of the overpayment is huge:  $15,969.67!!

New department can't start paying until old department stops

Shannon wrote: I took leave-without-pay from one department, in order to take a lower-ranking job at another department for one year. Phoenix continues to pay me from the first department, even though I've been on leave-without-pay from them for four months and counting.

My new department can't start paying me until the first department stops — and as long as my new department can't pay me, I don't have access to my full leave entitlement, or acting pay when I'm filling my manager's role, or the extensive overtime that I've accrued in this job, or my maximum pay increment in this lower-ranked position.

Furthermore, I have accrued over $2000 of extra money from the higher-ranked position (from which I'm on leave-without-pay) that I will have to pay back to the government. I'm taking bets as to whether I'll still be paid by the first department, by the time my year-long leave-without-pay expires.  Many other people here are missing allowances and, in the case of new hires, missing pay entirely.

Getting 2 paycheques from different departments

Dan wrote: I have the same issue where I was working for Health Canada and deployed back to DND. I am currently getting 2 paycheques, one from each department. I have tickets in with Phoenix since May and they have not assigned my ticket to anyone to deal with this. 

I am so frustrated. I have been putting the money in a separate account because when the time comes, the government will want their money back. As well, one of the paycheques has me at the lower pay scale and the other paycheque at the higher level where I should be.