by Rob Lunan
As many of you know, I work in accounting, bookkeeping and payroll. Recently a client (who shall remain unnamed) approached us to calculate what he is owed from the Federal Government’s scandal-plagued Phoenix Pay system.
In case you haven’t heard about the Phoenix problem, the government introduced a new IBM payroll system in January of this year. Since then, 80,000 hard working people – including many who live in North Grenville – have had their pay messed up. The stories range from not getting their pay increase, to not getting paid at all for months, and workers losing their homes because of it. These have all been widely reported and will not be regurgitated here. (Just search Google on this topic and you will find over 30,000 directly related articles.) However, I will report on a few things that you may not know.
First: you may have heard, back in the early Fall, Judy M. Foote (the federal minister responsible) promised that if anyone was not paid properly, they could simply contact her department for an advance to cover them, and it would be processed within days. My client did that – several times – and never got one single advance. Not a penny. And the same non-action happened to many others. Meanwhile, the Minister happily trotted across the country doing the radio and TV circuit promising this same…how does one say this politely? …lie. (Golly, sorry, how un-Canadian of me…I should have said “error”.)
Second: the same minister promised it would all be fixed by October – it hasn’t. In fact, my client, who works 40 hrs a week, is now being paid absolutely nothing, because the users of the Phoenix Pay system think he was overpaid and is now clawing back all his pay – even though for six months he was underpaid by almost 50%. His reward for being patient is that now he works full time and gets nothing. This is two months after the Minister’s promised fix date, and there is still no end in sight for this poor (literally) worker. And he is not alone. There are still at least 15,000 others in a similar situation. And so, their T4’s at year-end will also be wrong, meaning that in 2017, (should they ever get their pay corrected and thereby bumped into a higher tax bracket) they will pay too much tax on the false catch-up payment. (Earnings on a T4 are reported on a cash, not accrual, basis). I guess that is part of their evil plan to partially pay off the cost of fixing this debacle – collect more tax from those affected. As if those workers don’t have enough problems. Nice plan, Mr. Scrooge.
Third: perpetrators of this crime are un-touchable. To say it is a crime is correct. To not pay workers in a timely manner in Ontario is a crime and punishable by fines and imprisonment. But who do we fine? If you fine the government and they have to pay – it is us, the tax payers, who foot the bill. The ones who implemented this system too early (Rosanna Di Paola and her gang of bungling incompetents – who by the way were hoping for an early implementation bonus, and who were warned by experts not to implement the system because it wasn’t ready) should be fired, as an example, and IBM (the complicit vendor who is involved in a lawsuit in Australia over a similar problem, should pay at least 50% of the fix cost, which is currently estimated at “more than 45 million dollars”. But does anyone in this administration have the guts to do what is right? Time will tell – and memories will be long.