Senate pulling out of Phoenix pay system, citing ‘unnecessary delays and errors’

The Senate is dumping the Phoenix payroll system.
The Senate is dumping the Phoenix payroll system. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Senate has confirmed it is dumping the beleaguered Phoenix payroll system after 18 months of struggles to ensure its employees are paid properly and on time.

On Wednesday, the Senate issued an official request for proposals, asking for “a service provider to assume responsibility for payroll processing, as well as all related pension benefit payments for all the employees of the Senate of Canada.”

WATCH: Trudeau says government working ‘diligently’ on Phoenix pay system

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says government working ‘diligently’ on Phoenix pay system'
Trudeau says government working ‘diligently’ on Phoenix pay system

Senate spokesperson Alison Korn confirmed that the move was in “direct response” to the Phoenix debacle and is also designed to improve “overall autonomy.”

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Phoenix has been causing major headaches across the federal public service for nearly two years after being rolled out in early 2016.

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The Senate, specifically, has been using Phoenix for its payroll since April 21, 2016, Korn noted.

“In the last two years, the problems generated by the Phoenix system have negatively impacted the quality and standards of service the Senate sets for its employees. While the Senate mitigated many of the challenges on its own, they continue to face unnecessary delays and errors as a direct result of the system. This is unacceptable to the Senate as a distinct and separate employer from the Government of Canada.”

Proceeding with its own payroll system “allows us to completely mitigate the issues resulting from Phoenix while continually striving for the utmost efficiency in our operations and it further establishes the autonomy of the Senate,” Korn added.

READ MORE: Watchdog flags privacy breaches in Phoenix pay system

The request for proposals issued on Wednesday appears to be the latest step in a process that has been unfolding for some time. It comes in the wake of a request from the Senate’s Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration that a review be conducted to provide alternative options to the Phoenix system.

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A consultation was also held with external experts to seek advice on the best way to proceed with respect to the payroll process, Korn said. The request for proposals is the result.

WATCH: Feds reward executives behind failed Phoenix pay system with $4.8M in bonuses

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

Fixing Phoenix has proven a major challenge for the Liberal government, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently made it the top priority for new Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough.

Global News has reached out to Qualtrough’s office for comment.

Since early 2016, tens of thousands of public servants at the federal level have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The problems have been blamed on a hasty rollout, a steep learning curve and a lack of training for staff, cuts to the payroll workforce and technical glitches. The government has spent hundreds of millions trying to fix Phoenix, and last month looked poised to award Oracle, the company behind the basic payroll system that was then customized for the government by IBM, an additional $2-million contract to help “stabilize” the situation.


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