OTTAWA – The federal government racked up more than $280,000 over the past two years for not paying its cell phone bills on time, newly released documents show.
The late payment charges include one bill in October 2013 for more than $69,400.
“I think it’s outrageous to see this kind of waste when the Conservatives are closing down Veterans’ centres and cutting postal services,” said Liberal MP Geoff Regan, who requested the information from Parliament.
“They may think it’s chump change but for ordinary people it’s a lot of money.”
Late payment expenses in November 2013 totalled $65,373, and in December 2013, the government shelled out a further $45,489.
The majority was owed to Bell, which was paid more than $64,600 last October, but late charges also applied to Manitoba Telecom Services, Northerntel, Sasktel, Tbaytel, and Telus.
The documents show that between February and May 2014 there were no late charges incurred.
Most of the fees were charged to Shared Services Canada, which provides information technology services to federal government departments and agencies. Shared Services reports to Parliament through the minister of Public Works and Government Services.
Shared Services did not immediately responded to request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Public Works Minister Diane Finley said the minister “instructed SCC to take action,” and it has.
“The late fees costs incurred by SSC last year were unacceptable to Canadian taxpayers and to our Government,” spokeswoman Alyson Queen said in an email.
“(The SCC) have since consolidated billing down from 75,000 individual phone bills per month – and nearly 99 per cent of all phone bills are now paid on time. Telephone costs have been reduced by $57 millionin this year alone.”
Documents show that Shared Services Canada took over responsibility for paying for departmental telecommunication services in the spring of 2012.
An August 2014 Postmedia report says that Shared Services remains locked in a battle with two telephone companies over some $3.5 million in late-payment fees.
But Regan said the government still has to explain how this happened.
“I can’t wait to hear their explanation because as far as I’m concerned, they flushed well over a quarter of a million dollars down the drain because of mismanagement, because they weren’t paying their cell phone bills.”
© 2014 Shaw Media