Minister opens federal pay centre, says troubled Phoenix system is improving

The federal government is trying to hit the reset button on its bid to repair and replace the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system.

Federal cabinet minister Carla Qualtrough was dispatched Friday to Miramichi in northeastern New Brunswick, where she officially opened the centralized Public Service Pay Centre, which processes paycheques for 300,000 federal employees.

The feel-good photo-op for the public services minister comes just over two years after the government implemented the IBM-built Phoenix system, saying it would save taxpayers more than $70 million annually.

Instead, Phoenix has caused so many snafus across the country that the backlog of transactions stood at 625,000 in March.

That number is expected to dip only slightly when the latest figures are released later this month, however Qualtrough says a pilot project developed at the centre will be rolled out across the country to ensure more timely payments.

Under Phoenix, tens of thousands of civil servants have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all for long periods since 2016, which has prompted protests across the country.

In February, Qualtrough issued a public apology on behalf of the government.