After more than a year of technical problems and stubborn backlogs, the Liberal government is changing its approach to fixing the Phoenix pay system.
On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that a new working group is being formed, led by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, to tackle Phoenix.
The ongoing pay issues, which have resulted in tens of thousands of federal public servants being overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all over the last 14 months, are “completely unacceptable,” the prime minister’s office wrote.
“The working group, chaired by Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, has already begun its work with support from the Privy Council Office,” the statement added.
In addition to the working group’s efforts, the government is re-allocating $140 million to help departmental officials hire additional help and cover other costs linked to fixing Phoenix.
Ottawa will provide $200 to any employee in the public service who needs help covering costs linked to their tax filing, which has been complicated by the payroll issues.
“Employees who encountered Phoenix pay issues may seek up to $200 in reimbursement for tax advisory services in relation to their 2016 or 2017 income taxes,” the Treasury Board Secretariat said.
That amount could go higher if government workers can provide receipts for tax services in excess of $200, a government source said.
The government began sending income tax slips to its over 290,000 employees across 98 federal organizations in the last month. But as many as 50,000 of those tax slips had to be reissued for 2016 because of Phoenix-related problems.
Public Services and Procurement Canada, the department responsible for Phoenix, also faced backlash earlier this spring after it was revealed executives in the department had been awarded $4.8 million in performance bonuses during the meltdown.
WATCH: Feds reward executives behind failed Phoenix pay system with $4.8M
Deputy Minister Marie Lemay has been offering updates on the department’s progress every two weeks since last summer, and although the backlog of files has diminished, there are ongoing problems and Phoenix still isn’t back to the so-called “steady state” the government wanted to see reached last fall.
The minister in charge of the file, Judy Foote, is currently on a temporary leave of absence for family reasons, unrelated to Phoenix. She is being replaced on an interim basis by Jim Carr.
The members of the working group:
- Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
- Treasury Board President Scott Brison
- Finance Minister Bill Morneau
- Acting Minister of Public Services and Procurement Jim Carr
- Environment Minister Catherine McKenna
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Steven MacKinnon
*With files from The Canadian Press