Bonuses at Shared Services Canada despite criticisms

Shared Services Canada has been pilloried on all sides for its unsatisfactory performance in modernizing Ottawa's archaic IT systems. But that dubious record did not stop the agency from handing out $1.5 million in bonuses and performance pay to its top executives this year.

Bonuses, performance pay awarded at Shared Services Canada even after reports of problem projects

Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, criticized Shared Services Canada in a report in February for its poor performance. Months later, senior executives were awarded bonuses and performance pay for excellent work. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Shared Services Canada approved more than $1.5 million in bonuses and merit pay for its executives, despite a year of widespread criticism of the agency's botched technology projects.

More than 100 senior managers were awarded the extra pay in the summer, including 19 who received bonuses of about $4,300 each, CBC News has learned.

The executives also received so-called "performance pay" for succeeding or surpassing expectations, sharing a pot of $1.5 million among them, or an estimated $15,000 each on average.

The awards were made for the 2015-2016 fiscal year — the same year the auditor general of Canada issued a damning report that faulted the agency for numerous financial and technical missteps.

Despite the acknowledged failures, chief financial officer Alain Duplantie signed off on performance pay and bonuses to 96 executives who were deemed to have succeeded in meeting expectations, and another 19 who were determined to have surpassed expectations.

Chief Statistician Wayne Smith quit his post earlier this year after publicly complaining about poor services from Shared Services Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

All but two of the 117 members of the executive cadre at the agency got the extra payouts.

CBC News obtained details of the additional compensation in a June memorandum released under the Access to Information Act, with some sections blacked out. In August, the agency rebuffed CBC's informal requests for the same information, saying it had not been "finalized yet."

An agency spokeswoman did not respond to requests this week by CBC News for comment and more information.

Off the rails

The agency was created in August 2011 to modernize email, data centres, cellphones and other IT-related services for 43 federal departments and institutions. Its annual budget is more than $1.4 billion, and it employs more than 6,000 people.

But many of its showcase projects have gone off the rails.

The agency had planned to transfer 500,000 email addresses to a more modern service by March last year, for example, but managed to migrate just 3,000.

Justice Canada "is experiencing an unacceptable level of outages to core IT services."- April 2016 memo to federal justice minister

There have also been potentially dangerous gaffes.

Agency technicians accidentally shut down emergency radio services in Saskatchewan in 2014 for 40 minutes. Some 9,000 firefighters, police, ambulance drivers and others were affected, many of them forced to rely on their personal cellphones to respond to emergencies.

The agency's efforts to consolidate 23,400 government servers into seven data centres succeeded in transferring just 300 by March last year, the auditor general reported on Feb 2.

Many departments have also complained that Shared Services Canada has failed to deliver the savings and efficiencies it promised.

'Unacceptable level of outages'

Justice Canada, for example, complained in an internal memo in April that it was "experiencing an unacceptable level of outages to core IT service" because of Shared Services Canada.

Canada's chief statistician, Wayne Smith, quit his post in September after publicly complaining about costs, service crashes and website outages caused by Shared Services Canada.

The federal government proactively reports on aggregate performance pay and bonus levels for each department, but the latest web posting is for 2013-2014 — or two years out of date.

Shared Services Canada reported bonuses worth a total of $66,846 that year, about $16,000 less than was approved this summer.

Shared Services Canada, the federal IT agency, has seen slow progress in its email transformation initiative, its cell and telephone projects, and its data centre consolidation. Many departments have complained they are stuck with unexpected costs as a result. (Shared Services Canada)

The total for performance pay and bonus that year was $1.5 million, about the same level as for 2015-2016.

The federal government sets a ceiling for performance pay, limiting it to no more than 26 per cent of base salary for top earners, and no more than 15 per cent of base salary for executives lower down the ladder.

A senior committee at Shared Services Canada approved the 2015-2016 payouts at a meeting about compensation on April 8, 2016, or more than two months after the auditor general tabled his damning report in the House of Commons.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter


  • This story has been corrected to state that top executives are limited to a maximum of 26 per cent above base salary for performance pay, while those lower down the ladder are limited to a maximum of 15 per cent. The figures were incorrectly reversed in an earlier version of the story.
    Nov 03, 2016 3:06 PM ET


Dean Beeby

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Bureau

Dean Beeby is a CBC journalist, author and specialist in freedom-of-information laws. Follow him on Twitter: @DeanBeeby


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