Madam Speaker, I rise in this evening's adjournment debate to address the issue of overpayments in the Phoenix payroll system. Being overpaid may not sound like a huge problem, but it is a huge problem when our federal public servants are asked to pay taxes and to make employment insurance and CPP contributions on money that they will ultimately have to return to their employer, the Government of Canada.
The government's original response to this situation was very lacking. We saw that a huge number, tens of thousands, of 2016 T4s were inaccurate. In order to try to avoid that problem for the 2017 T4s, the government has tried to put forward a compromise solution. We live in a social media age and we have a government that is very keen on digital communication, so I am going to try to summarize that compromise by reading some tweets from the Department of Public Services and Procurement.
On January 5, the department's Twitter account posted, “#GoC employees: Did you receive an overpayment in 2017? Call the Contact Centre or your compensation advisor by January 19, 2018. If the overpayment is processed by January 31, you will only need to repay the net amount.” However, then tweet two said, “If the 2017 overpayment is not processed by the end of January, you will have to repay the gross amount. The Pay Centre or your compensation advisor will confirm if your overpayment was processed.”
It strikes me that the government should be trying to ensure that no federal public servant has to repay a gross amount that they are not actually receiving, but the government has tried to make this contingent on the January 19 deadline. What do we then see?
From that same Twitter feed on January 11, “#GoC employees: the Pay Services Client Contact Centre is currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes.” Then we have, “If you were trying to report an overpayment, you may also submit a Phoenix Feedback Form to inform the Pay Centre of your situation, and no further action will be required.” “We apologize for any inconvenience this is causing and will keep you informed of our efforts to resolve this situation.”
My office understands that when employees submit that online form, they do not get any confirmation of whether or not it has been received, so understandably people are nervous. I am wondering if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement can inform the House how many overpayments were reported by the January 19 deadline and whether or not those files are being successfully processed for the end of the month.
I would also note that the Minister of National Revenue could issue a remission order to ensure that these Phoenix overpayments are not subject to tax. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary whether his government is prepared to issue a remission order to ensure that no federal public employee has to pay tax on a Phoenix overpayment.