Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to take part in this evening's proceedings. I want to begin by congratulating the member for Gatineau on his new role. I look forward to working with him on the many issues related to the Department of Public Services and Procurement.
First of all, I would like to talk about the fiasco that is the Phoenix pay system for those watching us. It began in February 2016 when the Liberal government decided to approve the implementation of a new pay system, that is a new computer system meant to ensure that all public servants receive their pay properly on a given date, in other words every two weeks.
It was a huge change, especially considering the more than 300,000 public servants in the system, and the fact that the previous pay system had been in place for over 40 years. Thus, it was considered a huge change, one that had been planned by the previous Conservative government. In 2016, we were not there to assess its effectiveness and operational readiness.
Last February, the government, through the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, gave the go-ahead to implement the system. A month later, government workers began to notice major problems. Some of them were not getting paid, which is pretty serious. Some of them were not getting their employment benefits, such as maternity leave or a pay raise following a promotion. Others were not getting the correct pay. Some were getting too much, which made no sense to them, and others too little. As the months passed, the situation got worse and worse. The problem ballooned from a few thousand public servants having trouble with their pay to tens of thousands of cases. By July 5, 2016, there were 80,000 cases.
At that point, after three months of pressure from the Standing Committee on Government Operations and budget forecasts by the opposition parties, both Conservative and NDP, the government acknowledged the situation and said it would take action. The minister held a press conference on July 5. She stated that there was a backlog of 80,000 cases of people with the kinds of pay problems I mentioned. She said that the backlog would be cleared by October 30. It is now February 2017, five months later, and there is still a 13,500-case backlog.
The problem is not the government's process. The problem is the lack of accountability. The minister says she was not made aware of the Gartner report that was submitted to her department in February which said that the Phoenix pay system was not ready to be implemented. The minister says she did not see that report, but approved the system anyway.
Accordingly, the deputy minister did not respect the minister's responsibility and worse, if the minister did indeed see the report, which is my personal opinion, then she went ahead knowing that the system was not ready to be implemented.