Archived: Government of Canada update on the Phoenix pay system for October 19, 2016
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Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining me today for our regular update on government pay. It is a pleasure to be joined by my colleague Alfred Tsang, from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, to answer your questions on the claims process for out of pocket expenses related to public service pay issues.
Since my last update, we have closed 12,824 employee cases, which brings us to a total of 51,000. Close to 62% of our original backlog has now been completed.
As you can see, we are tracking a bit behind our projected schedule. This is because of the complexity of the files we are currently handling.
Increasingly, we are seeing that many cases left in the backlog are very complicated and require time-consuming manual calculations.
In addition, we are processing some transactions that date back several years, so a fair amount of research is required to ensure that we're capturing proper pay amounts from those periods.
We are driving very hard toward October 31, and we believe the bulk of our backlog will be eliminated by this date. However, it is possible that we will have a limited number of cases that will require additional time.
I want to assure everyone that we are working extremely hard. Just last weekend, 186 compensation advisors worked throughout the weekend, processing pay transactions. These individuals have been regularly working evenings, weekends and holidays. Everyone is fully committed to the task at hand.
I know that some employees will be looking for certainty around when their backlogged cases will be addressed. Since we don't know how complicated a specific file is until we open it, it's challenging to be definitive about how much longer we might need for these complex cases. However, we will have a dedicated team of our most experienced compensation advisors to quickly address any cases that may remain after October 31.
It is important to note that we are focused on speed as well as care. We must make sure we aren't creating new problems by solving old ones. Complex cases require careful processing, and we are taking the time needed to ensure that we are accurate. People have been waiting a long time to get their pay, so we need to get this right.
Phoenix across the government
I want to remind everyone that when we report on our backlog, we are talking about cases from departments and agencies serviced by the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi. Out of the 101 federal departments and agencies currently using Phoenix, 46 departments are served by the Pay Centre. This represents approximately 190,000 employees or almost 70% of the public service.
The other 55 departments and agencies have retained their compensation advisors and process employee pay files within their organizations directly through the Phoenix pay system.
We are in regular communication with these departments and agencies to address any issues they may be experiencing or questions they may have.
We also canvassed them over the summer and fall to take stock of the situation. What we heard is that they are still adjusting to Phoenix, and that the situation is improving gradually. They also reported manageable caseloads.
Priority 1 and 2 cases
Speaking of our Priority 1 cases, we received 79 new cases since my last update. All have either been paid today or will be paid on the next pay day.
We have also received 894 new Priority 2 cases. The relative increase in these cases is largely related to a rise in the number of employees going on maternity or parental leave, as well as those who are leaving the public service. The majority of these employees are still receiving their salaries but have yet to be transitioned to employment insurance or pensions. These cases will be addressed on a priority basis within the next six weeks.
As I've said before, an ongoing level of pay issues is expected and essentially unavoidable in a large complex pay system such as ours. Employees are in constant movement; however, the implementation of Phoenix allows us to better detect and respond to new issues so we can ensure that they are promptly handled.
As I stated at our last briefing, some pay problems involve overpayments, and employees have raised concerns. The Government has established a repayment process that includes multiple repayment options, such as lump sums and installments, to suit individual needs and minimize financial hardship.
If employees want to repay overpayments promptly without waiting to be contacted by the Pay Centre, they can call our Call Centre so we can action the recovery as quickly as possible. To date, 917 employees have already contacted us to make arrangements for the recovery of their overpayments.
The introduction of Phoenix was a major undertaking. You’ve heard us say it many times: Phoenix was needed, but its implementation was flawed, causing serious and regrettable issues. As a result, we entered a crisis response phase where we’ve focused on fixing pay problems and clearing our backlog.
As we near the end of the backlog, we are approaching a transition phase in which we're focusing on improving our processing speed and making the system run better. The goal is to get to a point where we are consistently meeting established service standards so employees get their correct pay in a reliable and reasonable period of time.
Before the implementation of Phoenix, the normal service standard varied between 20 and 45 days, depending on the specific transaction.
In our transition phase, we will concentrate on implementing system enhancements, streamlining processes and enhancing user expertise. Our goal is to get to a point where we're meeting our service standards at least 95% of the time. In the coming weeks, we will begin posting monthly processing performance reports on our website to track our progress toward our final phase, which is our steady state.
Right now, we are not meeting many of our service standards. However, in some areas, we have dramatically shortened or eliminated processing times with the automation features in Phoenix. For example, transactions such as extra duty pay, once approved, are now rapidly processed and reflected in the next pay. More Phoenix enhancements will continue to be implemented to make it easier and faster for employees to get paid what they are owed.
Changes in senior management
I want to take a few minutes to address the recent move of the Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Accounting, Banking and Compensation Branch. Rosanna Di Paola, who has attended several technical briefings and has worked diligently to launch Phoenix over the last three years, has accepted the role of Special Advisor in my office. She remains a member of my executive team. This new role will see her focus on important projects that will benefit from her extensive expertise. She will be replaced in her role as Associate Assistant Deputy Minister for the Pay Modernization Project by Marc Lemieux, who is joining us on October 31.
We continue to make progress, but we still have much work to do.
Let me say once again that I know how difficult this ongoing situation is. I can assure you, we are working tirelessly to resolve all outstanding pay issues. I have seen firsthand, our employees at work. Everyone is committed to fixing this situation as quickly as possible. And we are grateful for the patience and understanding of employees across government.
I am committed to keeping everyone informed as we move toward our steady state.
Marie Lemay, P.Eng., ing.
Public Services and Procurement Canada
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