Clerk Michael Wernick gave a one-on-one interview last week, opening up about the embattled Phoenix pay system and the constant criticism from public servants and departments of Shared Services Canada (SSC).
Shared Services Canada
If anyone was hoping for the slightest possibility that the public service might do a 180 on its IT approach and devolve SSC, returning IT ownership to individual departments, think again.
“We have no choice but to move forward with SSC. The idea that over 300 federal organizations were going to fix and modernize and recapitalize their IT, one at a time, by going to Treasury Board and Finance and building independent systems, is a fantasy scenario. We had to do it together.”
The Clerk was asked if he’d given any direction to SSC since he became Clerk, “No, we have an accountable deputy minister and head of SSC. I have told the deputy minister community that Shared Services Canada is here to stay, and we need an agency that is a service provider that is listening and open to its clients, and we need clients that are willing to work and engage with the service provider. When those relationships work well then we do very well.”
But when asked how he thought SSC had been operating thus far, the Clerk replied, “It’s a work in progress, obviously. Shared Services Canada is barely three and a half years old. It is a massive undertaking to transform IT of the largest organization in the country.
The only way to have adequate cyber protection around the information that departments are the custodians of is to have a strong perimeter defence. And the only way to do that — and this has been said many times by the head of the Communication Security Establishment — is to put departments and agencies behind the firewalls and the defences of Shared Services Canada.
So there are transition issues of migrating from where we have been to where we need to go, but I am quite determined that we have to have shared IT infrastructure in the government of Canada.”
Next, the Clerk was asked about his reaction to learning that public servants had to quit their jobs because of the problems associated with the public service pay system, Phoenix.
“Every department and agency in the federal government has the ability to issue emergency cheques and advances, and there is no reason for anybody to be without cash. And in many of the cases that have popped up in the media, people have, in fact, been given cash advances against the compensation that they’re owed.
The best thing for people to do is to go to the website, file their case online, or call the call centre and make sure that the pay file catches up with them, but there is no reason for anybody to be without cash.”
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Read the full length interview here.