The Phoenix pay system is screwing us all

Two & Out
By James Peters
February 16, 2018 - 11:08am Updated: February 16, 2018 - 11:47am

KAMLOOPS — It's not as interesting maybe as fanciful flights to private islands or payouts to child soldiers, but the federal government has a much more costly and embarrassing boondoggle on its hands.

It's the Phoenix pay system, a software program meant to handle payroll for civil servants that has been a nightmare ever since it was introduced only two years ago.

Instead of distributing money in a stable and effective manner to the 265,000 or so employees of the public service, the system has itself become a black hole for money.

According to the Globe and Mail, about 193,000 government workers have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The price tag so far for attempts to remedy the situation?

Brace yourself.

$788 million.

That includes $186 million tabled this week for new pay adviser hirings to help mop up the mess.

What is Canada getting for that investment?

Just what is assumed to be standard operating procedure at any place of employment: employees paid in full, on time and with all deductions properly calculated.

There are more worries from employees this week because it's time for T4s to come out, and the government is warning them they will have to receive those T4s on a staggered schedule, so as not to overwhelm the fragile system.

Generally speaking, governments should not be run like businesses.

The profit motive leaves as many people behind as it helps, and that's not the government's role.

In this case, though, any wise CEO with more than 250,000 employees would have cut the company's losses long before the price tag reached three-quarters of a billion dollars.

When you buy a product and it is so clearly defective, you take it back, get your refund and try something else.

If the contract with Phoenix didn't include that provision, it's on the government.

If it did and the government is simply clinging to hope that it gets resolved, that's on them too.

Either way, the joke is on us, to the tune of $788 million dollars.