Politics

Search for Phoenix replacement to be led by Treasury Board

Treasury Board will lead the search for a replacement for the troubled Phoenix pay system. The federal government wants to keep the search separate from the efforts to stabilize the current system, which has seen public servants underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

Federal budget earmarks $16 million over two years to fund efforts to find a new pay system

Members of PSAC hold a protest in front of the federal Department of Finance offices on Elgin St. in Ottawa Wednesday, Feb. 28. Workers are upset that, since the implementation of the federal government's Phoenix pay system two years ago, thousands of public service workers have have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Treasury Board has been tasked with leading the search to find a replacement for the troubled Phoenix public service pay system — a move meant to separate the efforts to stabilize the troubled system from the job of replacing it.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison's ministry will lead the $16 million search, which is expected to take two years. 

Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough has been given the task of stabilizing Phoenix as her number one priority. The price tag for that job is nearing $1 billion.

The move to have Treasury Board head up the search is meant to ensure Qualtrough can focus entirely on the fix.

The government also is banking on Treasury Board's growing digital expertise to aid in finding a replacement for Phoenix.

The Phoenix pay system was launched two years ago. Since then, thousands of public servants have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. The effects on some public servants' lives have been devastating.

The $16 million earmarked in Tuesday's budget for the government to explore a replacement for Phoenix is to be spread over two years.

"We want to do it as quickly as possible but as well as possible," said Jean-Luc Ferland, spokesperson for Brison, adding that arbitrary, too-short deadlines set at the outset of the Phoenix project contributed its failure.

Everything is on the table, Ferland said, as the government consults with experts and its own public servants and unions.

Members of PSAC upset over the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system will have at least a two-year wait for a replacement system. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Whether that means an in-house solution can be built — as some unions have proposed — or private-sector technology is employed, the government won't say.

"We are not prejudging anything at this point," said Ferland. "We have an open mind."

The government also has reports on lessons-learned to rely on, such as the Auditor General's fall report and one from the technology research firm Gartner Canada.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson will be delving into the causes of the Phoenix failures in his spring report.

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