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Treasury Board to search for a new pay system to replace Phoenix

Treasury Board President Scott Brison, left, and Chief Information Officer Alex Benay are on the search for a new pay system that will replay Phoenix.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced it will be moving away from the current Phoenix pay system and will be taking steps to develop a new pay system.

An Aug. 23 press release from the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) said its team has been working on a “preliminary analysis of available vendors” and will be looking at the private sector to “identify potential innovative alternatives for a new system.”

The project to find a new vendor will be led by Alex Benay, chief information officer of Canada, and a “multi-disciplinary team” in the TBS. Thursday’s press release indicated that the team would work closely with “experts, unions, technology providers and, most importantly, public service employees,” to find the best pay system, which will have characteristics of “being agile, open and iterative – based on modern best practices and lessons learned.”

TBS received $16-million in the last federal budget, that would be spent over two years, to find an alternative pay system from Phoenix.

According to an Aug. 23 iPolitics article, the TBS is going to use a “procurement notice to attract industry attention as it gets ready to issue a request for information (RFI).” An RFI is information gathered from several vendors that is then later used to put together a proposal.

The Phoenix pay system is considered one of the biggest IT blunders in the Canadian government history, and it’s still continuing.

Phoenix was first introduced by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2009 and in 2011 it updated the service to IBM, which proposed a PeopleSoft-based replacement payroll system.

After updates to the pay system, in February 2016, Trudeau’s government laid off about 2,700 payroll clerks to introduce Phoenix and in March 2016 the first payday was sent out. By July 2016, 80,000 public sector workers were affected by the system and did not receive paychecks.

The system continues to be a problem for thousands of public servants and the comptroller general had estimated the system could take up to five years to fix and cost more than $3.5-billion.

Scott Brison, Minister of Digital Government and President of the Treasury Board, said in the release that public servants needed to be paid accurately and on time, “anything less is unacceptable.”

“As we explore and develop a modern, user-tested and reliable long-term solution to public service pay and HR for the digital era, our government is embracing a culture of accountability, innovation, and agility,” Brison said.

The news of finding a new solution to Phoenix comes a few months after Michael Ferguson, auditor general of Canada, slammed the federal government’s pay system in his spring audit.

“Phoenix executives prioritized certain aspects, such as schedule and budget, over other critical ones, such as functionality and security,” Ferguson said during his statement in May. “In our opinion, the decision by Phoenix executives to implement Phoenix was unreasonable according to the information available at the time. As a result, Phoenix has not met user needs, has cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars, and has financially affected tends of thousands of its employees.”