Words to Live By

Radio-Canada and the CBC have reported this week that Phoenix was “doomed from the start.” The reason? The business case prepared in 2009 under the previous government “lacked proper risk analysis and was politically motivated.” In the words of former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, “You look at this business case, you can drive trucks through some of the holes under the risk analysis.”

In a follow-up story the next day, our public broadcaster revealed the apparent conflicts of interest at the heart of the same business case, based as it was on research conducted by IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers, who subsequently received a combined $200 million in contracts related to Phoenix.

None of this will come as a surprise to many of our members. The previous government’s eager addiction to costly outsourcing contracts – often undertaken, they claimed, to save money, and always at the expense of our members – is well known. The real surprise is that of the 17 “lessons learned” contained in an “independent” analysis of the pay transformation initiative, and also reported this week, none addresses outsourcing.

In fact, the study concludes that "there is a need to assess how much can be taken on internal to government (given current capacity and capabilities) and to creatively engage the private sector to bring global expertise and to fill the gap in capacity and capabilities." In effect, the report promotes more not less contracting out. Is anyone surprised anymore that private-sector consultants would recommend more of what has been demonstrably bad for the public service?

The current government continues to rely far too heavily on outsourcing to provide IT services that ought to be handled by the public service – whether email consolidation, website amalgamation, the construction of new IT cloud-based services, or Phoenix. In fact, the surprise is not that the outsourcing of pay modernization (i.e., Phoenix) was so poorly handled, but that it was allowed to go ahead at all and against the warnings of so many, including, prior to its roll-out, unions like our own.

In response to Radio-Canada’s and CBC’s revelations this week, Parliamentary Secretary Steven MacKinnon was quoted saying, “We will fix this problem to everyone’s satisfaction and we will fix it using public employees.”

Words to live by. Words to live by.

Debi Daviau