$4.8M in performance pay awarded in department responsible for Phoenix pay system

Click to play video: 'Feds reward executives behind failed Phoenix pay system with $4.8M in bonuses'
Feds reward executives behind failed Phoenix pay system with $4.8M in bonuses
WATCH: The federal government's Phoenix payroll system has been a disaster from the start. Now there's word bureaucrats were rewarded with big bonuses, even though Phoenix has failed. Vassy Kapelos reports – Apr 5, 2017

Executives in the department overseeing the beleaguered Phoenix pay system received just under $5 million in “performance pay” over the past year, even as thousands of public servants were dealing with ongoing pay problems.

According to documents tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to a written question from Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, the $4,827,913 was divvied up between 340 executives at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).

The average performance payment for the 2015-16 fiscal year was $14,199.74.

WATCH: NDP Leader Tom Mulcair thinks government should apologize for the bonuses 
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Mulcair thinks government should apologize for Phoenix bonuses

Not all those executives would have been working on Phoenix, but Deputy Minister Marie Lemay confirmed some of the executives who received performance pay “absolutely” worked on issues linked to the pay system.

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“Be assured that we looked at each pay evaluation … people got what they deserved for the year,” she said in French.

“Executives who received performance pay are executives who are at a lower level, and these are people who are not necessarily 100 per cent dedicated to the project … it’s a part of their work and these people were all evaluated as such.”

Executives across the whole department also waited an extra few months last year to get their performance pay (receiving it in December instead of the summer) because of the debacle, Lemay said.

More performance pay coming?

The deputy minister went on to say that the top executives in charge of Phoenix have not yet received any performance pay for the 2015-16 fiscal year, representing the months leading up to the system’s ill-fated February 2016 launch.

They may still receive that money belatedly when the work to fix Phoenix is finished, she noted, depending on a review to be conducted this spring and summer.

READ MORE: One year and millions of dollars later, the ‘Phoenix fiasco’ continues

Meanwhile, performance pay for the 2016-17 fiscal year — which just ended — has not been deferred or cancelled. Those additional cheques may also go out this summer to PSPC executives, including the top people in charge of Phoenix.

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Lemay said her entire department has been working hard to put things right over the past 14 months.

The Phoenix pay meltdown has resulted in tens of thousands of federal government employees being overpaid, underpaid or — in a few hundred cases — receiving no pay at all.

Most performance pay went out in December

According to the government’s disclosure in the House this week, most of the $4.8 million in performance payments at PSPC were deposited on Dec. 14 and Dec. 28, 2016, respectively, although the total covers all payments made between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

“The majority of executives are eligible for performance pay, including at-risk pay, in-range increase, and potentially a bonus,” said Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Public Services and Procurement, in the answer tabled in the House.

“The amounts depend on the performance rating. Executive pay is a responsibility of the deputy minister and the clerk, and not the minister.”

WATCH: Liberals blame Conservatives for Phoenix pay problems

Click to play video: 'Liberals blame Conservatives for Phoenix pay problems'
Liberals blame Conservatives for Phoenix pay problems

Conservative MP McCauley had also asked the government to provide the date that individual executives received their bonus or performance pay, the branch and region that each executive worked in at the time they received that money, and the greatest amount received by any one person.

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The government said it was withholding all those answers “on the grounds that the information constitutes personal information.”

Lemay has been providing regular updates on the efforts to fix Phoenix, with the latest coming on Wednesday morning.

READ MORE: Phoenix employees to face a new hurdle during tax season

She and her team have been working to get the system back to what she calls “a steady state,” with predictable delays for dealing with pay issues and a clearing of the backlog of files.

As of Wednesday, this state had been achieved for people going on parental leave or other forms of leave. About 95 per cent of claims linked to these categories are being processed within 20 days, the deputy minister said.

Fixing Phoenix has already cost $50 million in extraordinary measures, Lemay confirmed, and that tally will continue to increase in the coming fiscal year. Once the system is working as it should, however, it should produce cost savings that will eventually make up for the rocky start.

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