Learning from Phoenix’s “incomprehensible failure”

There should be nothing “incomprehensible” about the failure of the Phoenix pay system. And yet that’s exactly what Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s second and final report yesterday concluded. “The Phoenix project,” the AG said, “was an incomprehensible failure of project management and oversight,” born of what the Globe and Mail in its report describes as “an obedient public service fearful of making mistakes.”

It’s true, numerous warnings about Phoenix and countless pleas not to proceed with it (including from PIPSC and other unions) went inexplicably unheeded. But can we really say this failure by senior management (Ferguson singles out three unnamed government executives) was “incomprehensible”? No doubt the climate of fear cultivated by the former Harper government had a lot to do with this, as did its years of aggressive cost-cutting, distrust of the public service, dislike of unions, and over-reliance on outsourcing.

Given all these, it seems obvious that a government that welcomes in-house proposals for an alternative pay system, encourages the involvement of public servants, and doesn’t over-rely on outsourcing stands a much better chance not only of developing a better pay system but of changing the culture of the federal government along the lines proposed by the Auditor General.

As it happens, there is such a proposal, and it comes from PIPSC’s own AFS Group National Executive.

Better Together!

Debi Daviau