July 14th, 2024

Ottawa looking to clear problem backlog by March 2025 before axing Phoenix

By The Canadian Press on July 9, 2024.

Alex Benay, Associate Deputy Minister at Public Services and Procurement Canada, speaks about the work to standardize and simplify HR and pay practices across the public service, during a news conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa says a big pile of problems still needs to be cleared before it can finally dump the error-prone Phoenix pay system for public-service employees.

The federal government has ambitions to clear that backlog by March of next year.

Alex Benay, the associate deputy minister of the Public Services department, says there is still a backlog of about 215,000 unresolved, complex problems with the pay system.

He says the government hopes to get through more than half of those cases by the end of the year by bringing more staff on board and using artificial intelligence.

But even as workers get through problem cases, Benay says they can’t control how many new problems are added to the pile.

The Phoenix pay system debacle has so far cost the federal government $3.5 billion – a number that could continue to grow as the backlog gets dealt with.

Benay couldn’t say how much it will cost before the situation is fully solved, but promised the government will be transparent about any issues they encounter along the way.

Meanwhile, he said his department is building and testing a new payroll and human resources system.

Phoenix was introduced in 2016 to replace dozens of antiquated pay systems with the aim of saving millions of dollars.

Instead, the system was riddled with errors and created massive and costly upheaval across the public service.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.

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