Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (C) for Public Services and Procurement Canada, as well as Shared Services Canada. I will also take the opportunity today to highlight the funds that were recently announced in budget 2018.
Joining me today from PSPC are Marie Lemay, deputy minister; Les Linklater, associate deputy minister; Michael Vandergrift, associate deputy minister; and Marty Muldoon, chief financial officer. From SSC we have Sarah Paquet, executive vice-president, and Alain Duplantie, senior assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer.
We are all here to answer your questions.
As committee members know, both departments play important roles in the daily operations of the Government of Canada, delivering high-quality, client-focused services to other federal departments and to Canadians. In these supplementary estimates (C), Public Services and Procurement Canada is seeking an additional $228 million in support of its operations. Of the amount sought, $152 million is for ongoing measures to help stabilize the Phoenix pay system and pay centre service delivery.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's completely unacceptable that our hard-working public servants are not being paid properly. Every day I hear stories of hardships, of anxiety, of stress caused by the failings of our pay system. I hear from and speak regularly with affected public servants from across the country, I read their stories in the news, and I hear regularly from unions about the personal toll this is taking. I hear about the family who had a hard time making ends meeting during maternity leave or the parent who had to tighten his belt during the holidays to buy gifts for his kids. These stories, Madam Chair, are heartbreaking. That is why much of this funding is directed toward services that will enhance support to the public servants experiencing pay problems.
Since Phoenix was launched, we have more than doubled the number of compensation advisers. We will also soon have a hundred more people at our client contact centre, who will be able to provide more detailed information to employees who are calling about pay problems. Currently we are looking at how work is organized so that transactions can be handled more efficiently. At the pay centre we are piloting a new approach that organizes compensation experts and support staff into pods that specialize in specific departments or transaction types, and early results are promising.
We are also investing in technology and improving our systems and processes, with a particular focus on better connecting Phoenix to a patchwork of over 30 government human resource centres.
All this work is being led by an integrated team of senior officials who are taking a whole-of-government approach to stabilizing the pay system. Fixing Phoenix and ending the hardship it imposes on public servants across the government remains my number one priority.
This brings me to my most recent initiative in an effort to further support MPs' and senators' offices in assisting constituents experiencing pay issues. I understand that every MP was emailed this flow chart yesterday, which is entitled “Assisting constituents with pay issues”, a need that was clearly expressed when I last appeared in front of this committee. Yesterday, additional information was sent to MPs and senators providing instructions on how to manage and send constituent pay issues to the appropriate contact. It is important to note that pay issues that are reported, whether through the office of an MP or senator, unions, departments, web forums, or the call centre are assessed by the pay centre. This builds on existing internal processes, and immediate efforts will be made to resolve issues that have the greatest financial impact on an employee.
Madam Chair, when I last met with your committee in late November, we had the opportunity to discuss the full suite of measures designed to bring the pay system to a point of stability, and in the short term reduce wait times and late transactions. Our government is committed to doing whatever it takes to fix this situation, but as I've said, there is no easy or quick fix. We didn't create this problem, but it is ours to fix, and budget 2018 supports our commitment to stabilizing Phoenix and paying our public servants accurately and on time.
To ensure openness and transparency of ongoing costs related to Phoenix, members of this committee have received a document that clearly summarizes the previous government's expenditures and unrealized savings, as well as the funds our government is investing to stabilize the pay system. That's the document that was distributed this morning entitled “Investments in Phoenix”.
As announced on February 27, budget 2018 proposes investments of $431 million to continue making progress on Phoenix issues, including hiring additional staff to support the pay system.
This funding will be largely used to increase capacity, in effect allowing us to bring the number of employees working on pay issues at the pay centre and satellite offices to more than 1,500. This capacity is filling a critical gap that was created when the former government eliminated the jobs of more than 700 compensation experts before launching Phoenix. The impact of this cut has been felt across government, and so additional HR advisers will also be hired within departments to assist employees with payroll issues.
Our immediate goal is to stabilize the pay system to ensure that pay is being provided accurately and on time; however, at the same time we must also focus on a longer-term solution, one that makes better use of modern technology and provides a reliable and efficient pay system for public servants.
That's why budget 2018 proposes to invest an additional $16 million in new funding for the Treasury Board of Canada to work with experts, federal public sector unions, and technology providers on a way forward for a new pay system. Our government is also funding the Canada Revenue Agency—$5.5 million over two years—for processing federal government employees' individual income tax reassessments that are required because of pay issues and for handling inquiries.
Budget 2018 also provides funding for other priorities, including procurement modernization. I would be pleased to return to this committee to discuss our plans and priorities once the main estimates and departmental plans have been tabled.
Turning now to other areas of our mandate, the supplementary estimates (C) for Public Services and Procurement also include some amounts.
It provides $7.9 million to help us better deliver service to pensioners, and $6.9 million to ensure that Parliamentarians and Canadians continue to be served in the official language of choice.
It includes $3.6 million resulting from the disposal of several surplus properties in Quebec and Ontario, which is to be reinvested toward the maintenance of federal buildings.
It provides $12 million in funding to provide accommodation, procurement, interpretation and project management support for the upcoming G7 Summit in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
An amount of $2.3 million is also provided to improve our contracting processes, provide clarity to businesses, and ensure that federal procurement remains fair and transparent.
An amount of $2.5 million is provided to continue to support online advertising by the government, and $1.1 million to undertake the project definition phase of the West Memorial Building Rehabilitation Project.
I shall turn now to Shared Services Canada.
Through supplementary estimates (C), Shared Services Canada is seeking $24.8 million in additional funding. This includes investments of $16.2 million to support this year's G7 summit. The department is providing information technology-related services to fit up an operations office and regional summit offices. This is in addition to the ongoing work SSC is doing for the G7 to install new cellular towers and upgrade existing towers, as announced last December. While these improvements will enhance summit operations, they will remain of permanent benefit to area residents and businesses.
Shared Services Canada's supplementary estimates (C) also include $3.9 million to support new full-time employees in the government by providing a standard suite of such services as workplace devices, Internet access, and file storage; and $4.0 million in total net transfers from other departments, which will be used for various information technology projects and services.
In budget 2018, significant new funding is proposed for SSC. About $2 billion will be invested over six years to build a modern, secure, and reliable information technology platform for the digital delivery of programs and services for Canadians. This investment will help reset and reinforce core IT services for the Government of Canada.
The budget also provides an additional $110 million over six years to the Treasury Board Secretariat, starting in 2018-19, to be accessed by SSC's customer departments and agencies to help migrate their applications to secure, modern data centres or cloud solutions.
Madam Chair, I am reminded daily of the important work under way in both departments as part of their commitment to excel in government operations and deliver high-quality programs and services that meet the needs of federal institutions and expectations of Canadians.
I want to thank our hard-working employees who bring great dedication to all their tasks.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We look forward to your questions.