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There’s lots of feathers flying right now over the federal government’s Phoenix payroll system debacle. Public Services minister Judy Foote has blamed the problems, which have seen a whack of fed workers deprived pay for weeks, on a lack of training among staffers. In all, more than 80,000 public servants have experienced some kind of issue with getting paid since the troubled system took over in February.

This automated national payroll system was to be the dream. This revised operation would replace an old-fashioned arrangement that was spread across country and departments, both. The snazzy newcomer promised unprecedented centralized control. And, crowed its proponents, it would save $70 million every year.

fire bird

But right from its hatching, Phoenix didn’t fly.

Some recipients were only paid in part. Others were overpaid. And some haven’t seen a thin dime since the launch.

For the most part, the folks who were stung were dealing with “supplementary pay,” which includes overtime.

The feds have scrambled to introduce various stop-gap measures to address the Miramichi, NB-based IBM version, to the tune of some $15 million to $20 million a year.

For one, the Treasury Board Secretariat is apparently considering compensating public servants who’ve racked up personal expenses like credit card interest and overdraft banking fees. And the government is setting up temporary pay offices in Winnipeg, Montreal and Shawinigan, Que., and a call centre in Toronto. There, 100 weary temp-agency workers answer the pleas from the thousands of distressed workers wondering when they’ll see a little remuneration for their efforts.

At some level, we should go easy on the feds as they work to squirm their way free from the mire. Managing a payroll system is a massive, tangly task at the best of times. Imagine trying to oversee the payroll requirements of the 300,000 public servants who work for the government.

Still, none of this would have reared its head in an organization that chose to outsource its payroll responsibilities to a third party, like KeenPAY. With this enterprise contractor payroll service, clients are relieved of the whole tricky business. Everyone’s paid promptly and correctly, and nobody’s got to make arrangements for addressing the kvetching.