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PSAC members protest the Phoenix pay system on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb 28, 2019.
Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Marie Lemay was the public face of the Phoenix struggle for months.
Public Services Minister Judy Foote speaks to the media in Miramichi, N.B. She left the portfolio, for family reasons, with the problem unresolved.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough is now in the hot seat on the Phoenix file.
Phoenix, a timeline: How the federal government has spent nearly three decades struggling to deliver a new pay system for its 300,000 employees.
June 1989 : Conservative government of Brian Mulroney begins analyzing options for replacing legacy pay systems.
Aug. 26, 1993 : Accenture wins $45-million contract to automate much of the work handled by 750 pay and pension administration employees.
April 1995 : Liberal government of Jean Chrétien terminates Accenture contract for default.
June 1996 : Accenture sues government for $45 million in damages.
January 2003 : Parties settle, terms not disclosed.
September 2007 : Public Services and Procurement Canada proposes project to modernize pay system technology. Decision deferred.
Spring : House of Commons committee discusses consolidating government pay administration, which is spread across dozens of departments and agencies and uses many different systems.
May : Public Services’ Accounting Banking and Compensation Branch finishes business case for fixing the pay system.
July : Cabinet approves a Transformation of Pay initiative, consisting of a $122.9-million project to centralize pay administration for 46 federal departments and a $186-million project to install a new system that would become known as Phoenix, serving 101 departments and nearly 300,000 employees.
February : Public Services issues request for proposals for pay modernization. The winning contractor is to adapt and link the new pay system’s software, based on PeopleSoft technology, to the federal government’s pay administration procedures and rules.
August : Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces the government’s new pay centre will be located in Miramichi, N.B.
June 6: The federal budget unveils a deficit-reduction action plan.
June 29: Pay modernization contract awarded to IBM, teamed with Deloitte Inc. and Oracle Canada. Renewed in 2019. As of June, 2020, the government had paid out more than $450 million.
Aug. 4: Shared Services Canada created, responsible for the government’s email, telecommunications and data centres.
December : Public Services begins implementing the pay-consolidation project, which is completed four years later. Twelve hundred pay administrators across the country are to be phased out and replaced with 550 employees in Miramichi. It will handle nearly two-thirds of the government’s pay transactions.
March: The pay centre opens in Miramichi.
Fiscal year : The budget for pay modernization project is reduced in line with government-wide cost-cutting effort.
December : Public Services begins implementing pay modernization project.
June : Initial Phoenix design is completed, version of PeopleSoft to be used changed to 9.1 from 8.9.
Spring : Planned July pilot with Natural Resources changed to become internal Public Works pilot to conduct tests on the pay system.
Summer : Pay modernization project defers key software enhancements, including retroactive automation for “acting” positions and retroactive transactions relating to changes in collective agreements.
July 13 : Sensitive data removed from pay modernization defect tracking tool following a privacy breach.
Mid-Sept : Two-stage rollout of Phoenix delayed from October and December to February and April. Final testing of system moved to January.
Oct. 19 : Liberals win a majority in federal election.
Nov. 4 : Liberal cabinet sworn in. Public Works department renamed Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Jan. 18 : Final draft of report by S.i. Systems, an independent contractor, concludes Phoenix is ready to be rolled out.
Jan. 29 : Public Services and Procurement Canada receives a draft copy of a second assessment of new system’s readiness from Gartner. This report, commissioned by Treasury Board, is more pessimistic about the readiness of Phoenix, but Public Services Minister Judy Foote does not see it until after Phoenix is launched.
Jan. 29 : The Public Service Management Advisory Committee meets to consider final preparations for Phoenix — those present say their departments are ready to go live.
Feb. 24: First phase of Phoenix rollout begins, involving 34 federal departments and 120,000 employees.
Apr. 11 : Marie Lemay joins Public Services as deputy minister, replacing George Da Pont, who is retiring.
April 21 : Second phase of pay modernization launched involving 67 departments and 170,000 employees. About 30 per cent of employees have errors in their paycheques. Backlog of pay transactions soars as errors and knock-on effects accumulate.
May : Lemay meets with PwC, a consulting group, and asks it to examine Phoenix system’s processes. PWC hired in late fall to suggest ways of fixing problems.
Summer : Government begins rehiring compensation advisers to staff satellite offices in Gatineau, Winnipeg, Montreal and Shawinigan. Public Services department steps up training for human resources employees across government. Help lines set up for dealing with emergency cash needs, tax issues.
Nov. 29 : Public Services Minister Judy Foote says during Commons committee testimony that it had been a mistake to reduce the number of government compensation advisers before Phoenix was up and running.
February: Treasury Board and PSPC hire Goss Gilroy to do lessons learned report on Transformation of Pay Initiative. Data completed July 2017.
April: Public Services begins processing back pay following the retroactive signing of collective agreements with government unions. Forty per cent of the pay increases had to be handled manually.
Apr. 27 : Prime Minister establishes Ministers’ working group to provide greater oversight.
July : Oversight committees established at multiple levels of bureaucracy to take whole-of-government approach to Phoenix fixes. Lead committee made up of deputy ministers and equivalent.
Summer : Establish joint Public Services-Treasury Board pay stabilization team to closely track progress of fixes. Led by Public Services associate deputy minister Les Linklater.
Aug. 24 : Judy Foote resigns as minister to spend more time with family.
Aug. 28 : Carla Qualtrough takes over as Public Services minister.
Nov. 21: Auditor general tables his examination of Phoenix, reveals backlog of pay requests is approaching 500,000 as of June 30.
Dec. 27: Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough confirms number of transactions awaiting processing at pay centre exceed 600,000.
Jan. 24 : Public Services dashboard shows escalation in pay transaction backlog to 633,000, which would prove to be the peak.
Feb. 27: Federal budget contributes $16 million to study alternate pay system.
April : Government’s pay operations group head count reaches 1,500. This includes 830 employees at the main pay centre in Miramichi, 670 workers at five satellite pay offices in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba. Two hundred are also employed at a contact centre.
Sept. 19 : Government announces procurement plan to replace Phoenix.
May 3: More than a dozen unions reach deal with Treasury Board on compensation for damages caused by dysfunctional pay system.
Sept. 6: Government invests $117 million to design and deliver pilot projects for next-generation pay system.
March 6: Treasury Board selects SAP Canada to do a pilot project for establishing the feasibility of a Phoenix Pay replacement.
June 24: Total Phoenix Pay backlog drops to 323,000 — down half from the peak. The backlog of financial transactions declined to 125,000 — down two-thirds from the early 2018 peak of 384,000.
July 9 : Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest federal government union, accepts offer for compensation related to damages stemming from botched pay system.
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