June 19, 2015 5:27 pm
Updated: June 19, 2015 7:21 pm

Quebec Liberals tackle I.T. cost overruns…again

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WATCH: Treasury Board president Martin Coiteux presented a strategy to save money in I.T. without cutting jobs. Global’s Caroline Plante reports.

QUEBEC CITY – For years, Quebec has been pouring money into information technology (IT).

Creating an electronic health file for every Quebecer, for example, was supposed to cost $540 million; so far it’s cost taxpayers $1.6 billion.

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In 2010, the Charest Liberals tried to control cost overruns by passing a law – to no avail.

“We’ve had problems in the past because our governments were not strong enough. We didn’t pay the due attention to major projects that needed to be followed more thoroughly,” said Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux.

“This is part of the changes I’m announcing.”

Coiteux is setting up a committee in charge of supervising major IT projects; he’s centralizing management, without cutting any jobs, and promises to hire more qualified civil servants rather than contracting out.

“The idea is very clear,” he said.

“What we want to achieve is more control internally over our IT projects and there will be substantial economies associated with that.”

The government expects to save “hundreds of millions of dollars” by also merging provincial data centres and using “cloud computing,” a process in which data is stored and accessed over the Internet instead of hard drives.

Quebec Treasury board president Martin Coiteux, left, speaks at a news conference on the number of employees in the public sector, Thursday, June 4, 2015 at the legislature in Quebec City.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

SPGQ union president Richard Perron was cautiously optimistic on Friday.

“We think we’ve been heard because the solutions he puts forward is a replication of what we told him,” Perron said.

“But the devil is in the details. Will they hire enough people and will they be able to pay the market price?”

The CAQ insisted streamlining now won’t erase past mistakes.

“We want an inquiry because we have to know what happened,” said CAQ MNA Eric Caire.

“Why did we spend so much money for those projects, for that mess? An inquiry is absolutely necessary.”

In addition to Friday’s strategy, the Liberals said they will press forward this fall with a bill to reform IT.

© 2015 Montreal

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