RCMP to develop own email system because of government delays

After years of email crashes and outages, the RCMP had decided it can't wait for a new harmonized email system for the entire federal government.

Transformation plan has been on hold for 2 years with no word on new rollout date

The RCMP, which has been plagued with email outages and IT failures, says it can no longer wait for the federal government to rollout its long-delayed email transformation plan. (Canadian Press)

After years of email crashes and outages, the RCMP had decided it can't wait for a new harmonized email system for the entire federal government.

The national police force was originally scheduled to be moved onto the long-delayed system in October 2014. Subsequent transition dates in October 2015, February 2016 and January 2017 have come and gone. 

The RCMP is by no means the only agency facing delays. The federal government's tech support agency Shared Services Canada (SSC), has estimated that less than 15 per cent of employees are using the new system.

In June 2013, Bell Canada won the contract to move 550,000 mailboxes from 63 email systems to a uniform email address ending with @canada.ca. The transformation promised to make the email system more secure, efficient and easier for Canadians to access while saving $50 million a year.

There's still no word on when Bell Canada will make good on a $245-million contract, which has officially been on hold for two years.

In a statement, a spokesperson from Shared Services Canada says it expects Bell to honour its obligations and deliver the complete email service.

Money unspent

Documents obtained by CBC News under access to information suggest that by late 2016, the RCMP had anticipated yet more delays and had started working on an interim solution, "until SSC provides functional, secure and reliable platform," according to an internal presentation given to the force's national integrated operations council.

The speaking notes also highlighted how RCMP funding, contributed to SSC in 2011 for its new email system, remained unspent while its outdated and unsupported email system could not fully integrate with desktop software, and associated hardware was near the end of its life.

Shared Services has agreed to allow the RCMP to proceed with its own Microsoft Outlook email system while retaining its @rcmp-grc.gc.ca domain name, instead of going with the proposed generic @canada.ca. It was originally proposed for implementation this summer.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Annie Delisle said the force is "currently working with SSC on the design options" for the new email service.

Just an interim solution

The move, SSC makes clear, is not permanent. 

"No client departments, including the RCMP, are moving forward with independent email projects or have been excluded from the email transformation initiative," SSC said in a email to CBC News.

Permitting the RCMP to build an interim solution is a signal that relations with Shared Services Canada may be thawing.

While many federal departments have long-standing complaints about the tech support agency, the RCMP has possibly been the most negatively affected by procurement delays, service outages and IT failures.

In a memo obtained by CBC News this year, former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson told Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that critical IT failures at the RCMP have increased by 129 per cent since SSC took over tech support for the entire government five years ago.


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