Editorial: Phoenix payroll fiasco follies for 2019

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Word has it that the federal government now has a short list of companies bidding to replace the financial fiasco that is the Phoenix payroll system.

No word yet, however, on a short list of public-sector management who should be replaced in the wake of a payroll farce that is closing in on a decade and will end up costing Canadian taxpayers well over $2 billion.

No word yet either on whether those responsible for making the Phoenix 2.0 decisions will be listening this time around to anyone who knows anything about the technology required to achieve Phoenix’s original goal of replacing the federal government’s 40-year-old system to pay its 290,000 employees and save $70 million annually in the bargain.

As the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada has pointed out, next to no meaningful federal government listening took place prior to Public Services and Procurement Canada’s original decision to award IBM the contract to help it customize PeopleSoft pay software as Ottawa’s civil service payroll replacement solution.

The union’s members and their fellow Canadian taxpayers have been paying for that bureaucratic hearing impairment ever since in the form of overpayments, underpayments and non-payments to federal government employees and an upwardly spiralling bill for what the federal auditor general has called as “an incomprehensible failure of project management and oversight.”

That failure will be magnified further if civil service management has learned no lessons from the Phoenix fiasco.

Atop the lessons-learned list needs to be an appreciation of whose money is being spent when major technological investments are being made. Government has no money of its own, but civil servants and politicians need to spend tax dollars as if those dollars were theirs.

If not, taxpayers will be doomed to watch their money being repeatedly incinerated by bureaucrats who don’t value those dollars and are not accountable for how they are spent.