Evidence of meeting #122 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was phoenix.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Les Linklater  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Marie Lemay  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Michael Vandergrift  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Sarah Paquet  Executive Vice-President, Shared Services Canada
Commissioner Alain Duplantie  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services, Shared Services Canada
Marty Muldoon  Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Seven minutes? Perfect. I'll just put this on my timer so that I don't get cut off in the midst of my questions.

12:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Time.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I'm glad to hear that I have some friends on this committee.

Thanks again for being here. Madam Paquet, I did have some questions for you with regard to Shared Services. First, I would ask you to speak about your role with Shared Services.

March 20th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.

Sarah Paquet Executive Vice-President, Shared Services Canada

Thank you for your question.

I was the senior assistant deputy minister in the strategy branch, and I was appointed executive vice-president on February 26, if memory serves. I am very pleased about that.

Clearly, my role in the organization will be important. My role will be to attract women to IT and truly promote the business vision. For our president, Mr. Parker, it's very important that we are fully aware of what it means to be a business and a service. Customer service is very important to us, as is having a very good work environment. So that is what I will work towards with our president.

Since the president and I have only worked together for a few days since my appointment, we will establish specific roles later.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Okay.

I will not go into too much detail about what you have to do next. I will give you time to acclimatize.

I would like to come back to Phoenix. Ms. Lemay and Mr. Linklater, you told me that $142 million has already been spent this year and $431.4 million is needed to keep the staff in place. Has the department conducted an analysis?

I know it's only a matter of time before we reach an acceptable level of service for our public servants. We are building capacity right now, but will there be an analysis done at some point to see whether we have to keep the capacity in place to reach an acceptable level of service?

Is the department doing this right now?

12:05 p.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Les Linklater

As you know, we have established service standards that we are not really meeting at the moment, except for a few key transactions, such as parental leave and sick leave. Other than that, we are still determining the needs in human resources to take care of arrears and improve service standards as soon as possible.

As we mentioned, we started with a staff of 550 people. We continue to increase our capacity to ensure that we are tackling arrears as soon as possible. At a certain point, when we achieve an acceptable level of stability and acceptable service standards, we will be able to determine what the required workforce will be to maintain those service standards.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I'm curious. Previously, 700 employees, compensation advisors, were laid off. Are some of those 700 employees included in the 1,500 current employees?

12:10 p.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Les Linklater

We have put a lot of effort in determining whether retirees or those who had left the public service wanted to come back. Some, but only a few, are back in the public service, but we have increased capacity through external competitions to recruit new employees.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Clearly, we understand the current situation of the Phoenix pay system, but are the lessons learned being applied to other projects? We need to focus on customer service, as Ms. Paquet said. In 2009, the system was designed to save money, but not really to provide customer service to our public servants.

Is that a lesson the department has learned?

12:10 p.m.

Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Les Linklater

Yes, absolutely.

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

Yes. In fact, we are applying it to a number of projects.

A good example is the electronic procurement system. We took over this project and applied the lessons learned. This project will be modular. We are reviewing and simplifying all business processes. We have included change management and training in the project. We are making sure that we have good governance. We evaluate each step to make sure we learn from our mistakes. In my opinion, the biggest mistake would be not to learn from this project. So that's what we are doing.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

It is a good transition towards the e-procurement system. Tell me about this system. Are you starting to use it in-house at the moment?

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

Yes, we will use it. As the minister was saying earlier, we only have paper processes at the moment, which may seem surprising for people outside the department.

Massive departments, which do so many transactions, always use paper processes. The contracts are complex, so we're always doing a number of things at the same time. We're in the process of seeing how we can simplify our processes. We are starting to introduce electronic elements. We now receive electronic bids. We're starting to take small steps. We have a contract with an association to work on simplifying our contracts. It is quite exciting, because we believe that we can make a lot of progress with our contracts. We want to modify the length of the contracts, and include fewer provisions. This will be a lot simpler, easier to understand and more open for the company.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

So, I can tell my suppliers that they will eventually no longer have to bring their great big boxes to the La Promenade Building.

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

Absolutely.

Even now, they don't have to bring them because, since January, we have been able to receive electronic bids. Before January, we led a pilot project over six months, during which 40% of the bids were received electronically. So, there's really a demand for it. In January, we made it permanent.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

When it comes to electronic bids, we must keep cybersecurity in mind. Have you studied the issue under this lens, in order to ensure that everything submitted electronically is protected? Commercial information and transactions between the government and its suppliers must be protected. I imagine that an analysis was done.

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

Absolutely. We're working with the government departments that have more expertise than us on this subject. We're working a lot with Shared Services Canada.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

We are doing some technical stuff here.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you very much.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

Mr. McCauley is next, for seven minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Ms. Lemay, I want to get back to Bill C-344. Has the government done a study on what the added costs are going to be to taxpayers, if Bill C-344 is implemented?

12:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

The straight answer to your question is, to my knowledge, no, but we don't believe there is going to be much additional cost, because that is information that is required.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Why haven't we? This is ironic, because one of the first times I asked the question, right afterwards in this committee we had a delegation of parliamentarians from Vietnam and also people who work on their equivalent committee. They asked whether our government does studies on what the cost would be to the taxpayers for changes that we bring about through legislation.

It was incredibly ironic that a nominally communist country was appalled that we don't do such studies. Why would we not do a study on something that's going to change all the procurement that the Government of Canada does?

12:15 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

Remember that this is not going to be used in the evaluation of procurement; it's information that we're asking the bidders to provide so that we can make more informed decisions after. We are going to be asking for and collecting information, again, through the electronic procurement system. Our hope is that we'll be able to collect it faster by ticking boxes and putting in numbers, but that's the type of information that will be—

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

It has nothing to do with ticking boxes. It adds a bureaucratic layer and adds costs for bidding.

Why haven't we done a study, or will we be doing a study on what it's going to cost taxpayers if Bill C-344 passes, as I assume it will?