Pay problem case files becoming “more complicated,” says deputy minister

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it will likely miss a self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline for eliminating a backlog of problems with its new employee pay system.

Marie Lemay, deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, the department overseeing efforts to fix the Phoenix payroll system, says officials are still aiming for the deadline.

She says pay system employees have closed 12,824 more files since her last update earlier this month.

That has resulted in a reduction in the overall backlog by over 51,000 cases, or more than 60 per cent of the original number in the system as of July 1.

But as the department works to fix thousands of problem files, the cases are becoming more complicated, said Lemay.

As well, old files are being uncovered that require further investigation, she added.

“Increasingly, we”re seeing many of the cases left in the backlog are very complicated and require time-consuming manual calculations,” she told a news conference on Wednesday.

“In addition we are processing some transactions that date back several years.”

The government has budgeted an extra $50 million to handle issues related to Phoenix, including millions of dollars being paid to tech giant IBM to help fix the system.

IBM created the pay system, basing it on the PeopleSoft program that is used worldwide, and tailored it to the needs of the federal civil service.

The government was forced to hire or re-hire hundreds of payroll and call centre workers after more than 82,000 civil servants reported problems with their paycheques. Hundreds of complainants had not been paid at all, in many cases for months.

Lemay said those extra employees will remain on the job until the pay system is restored to what she terms a “steady state.”

Earlier this month, the department began processing claims from employees who incurred out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the pay mixup, such as interest on credit cards and lines of credit.