The more things change, the more things seem to stay the same, at least for international travelers arriving in the United States during the New Year’s holiday season. For a second year in a row, state computer systems United States (19459002) was the object of a breakdown that left thousands of passengers across the United States waiting for long queues to clear customs. This time, the stop lasted only two hours, while last year lasted four hours and affected more than 13,000 passengers on 109 flights, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security of the Inspector General released in November disturbance. The report from the DHS IG indicated that the 2017 New Year’s problem had been caused by an insufficiently tested software change related to the long-time  CBP computer upgrade effort .
No official cause or total number of passengers or flights affected was given for the last CPB computer hiccup. However, another problem related to computer modernization is probably due to the fact that a Homeland Security IG report dated September 2017 evaluating the state of the IT systems and infrastructure of the Customs Department indicated that the main computer system used has seen its performance “significantly reduced over the past year due to ongoing efforts to upgrade (its) underlying system architecture.” Prior to this last outage, there were three other interruptions in 2017, according to the IG report.
The few hours of distress experienced by international travelers, however, are small compared to the tens of thousands of Canadian federal government workers who are now facing a third year of tormenting the payroll system. In what is set to become one of the worst [1945-19003] IT implementations managed by the government more than half of the 290,000 more civil servants paid via the Phoenix payment system developed by IBM. have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all since its launch in February 2016. Government Records show that as of November 2017, there were approximately 589,000 transactions related to payroll waiting, which means that many government employees are struggling with several pay issues. For example, at the Department of National Defense of Canada 63% of its workers had outstanding compensation issues as of November 1, 2017, with 15% having three or more outstanding issues. According to the Auditor General of Canada, nearly 50,000 government employees had to wait more than a year for their wages to be restored
One of the main objectives of the Phoenix system that dates back to 2009 was to save the government $ 70 million Canadian per year by reducing payroll overhead costs and costs. of staff. However, things did not go as planned. While the original cost of the project was $ 309.5 million, the Minister of Utilities and Procurement, Carla Qualtrough, who is now in charge of the project, admitted in November that it would cost as much as 1 billion Canadian dollars and three additional years or more to completely repair the system. Additional costs include hiring hundreds of new employees – including some  dismissed when Phoenix was introduced – to try to fix the mess.
The pain was acute for the thousands of public workers who received less than their correct salary, but these thousands of people who were overpaid also did not escape misery. For this last group, the government made the surprise of the New Year: note that it will have until January 31, 2018 to repay all too much perceived. If this is not the case, they have been told that they will have to repay [pas le salaire net] after tax withdrawal, but the gross salary overpaid that the workers received by mistake. They will then have to wait to claim the difference on their personal tax returns in May, with future repayments who knows when. At the very least, asking for money that they have not received and further complicate their tax returns has not made the affected government employees very happy, given that most have already spent months trying to pay their balance in vain.
UHIP is not hip
The debacle of the Phoenix payroll system in Canada is not the only longstanding computer fiasco in the world. The state of Rhode Island has had its own problems with the Public Assistance Program of the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) which was launched in September 2016 largely. pump. Like Phoenix, the aim of RAMU was to save the state millions of dollars a year by reducing treatment and staffing costs again. However, due to a myriad of operational problems, the cost of UHIP is now set at $ 492 million, not counting the $ 85.6 million credited to the US $ 452 million. State by Deloitte. For reference, UHIP was originally expected to cost between $ 110 million and $ 135 million and be ready for commissioning in April 2015.
Since its inception, the barrage of significant errors in UHIP has meant that thousands of the poorest families in Rhode Island have not received the public assistance payments to which they were eligible. Many families eligible for benefits waited three months or more (and some more than a year) before finally obtaining public assistance. Faults in the system continue to appear. Last October, for example, it was discovered that thousands of claims had never been processed . The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, which sued the state several times for problems with UHIP, said this month that one in three families still did not receive benefits in a timely manner. and eligible recipients are not informed of the reasons why they were losing their Medicaid protection as required by federal law. Due to one of the lawsuits, Rhode Island finally had to accept, last fall, a special master of the federal court appointed to oversee the system and try to make it work properly. The hope is that later this year, UHIP will finally begin to work reliably, although no one in government is willing to put its reputation to the test.
Phoenix and RAMU have a few more things in common, beyond costly and long-lasting operational computer disasters. Both went live against expert advice according to investigation reports in Phoenix and UHIP . Reports indicate that senior officials were not only naive about the complexity inherent in the development of their systems and too optimistic about the preparation of their respective systems, but their decision was largely motivated by the desire to generate these beneficial cost savings. as soon as possible. Now, predictably, these savings will never happen.
In addition, the poor operational performance of the two systems caused material public injury which, in turn, created political storms, forcing senior politicians in both governments (19459034) here and here ) to publicly apologize for the fiascos. It also forced the resignations of senior government officials ( here and here ) who were originally in charge. The surviving politicians of both governments have also naturally tried to blame the problems – in the case of Canada, the previous government and in Rhode Island, to the entrepreneur . In truth, both operational failures have been the end product of a dedicated team effort. And finally, the politicians of both governments solemnly swore ( here and here ) that real lessons have been learned and that these mistakes will not be repeated, which means, of course , that ] they do not have and will be respectively.
There is no doubt that new problems with Phoenix and UHIP will be rich in risk factors for the coming year, if not years. They will likely be joined in the near future by other government computer fiascos who are now at the planning stage. The reason I am so confident is that the US federal government, for example, is about to embark on a multitude of efforts to modernize the computer system, now that the President has signed the Modernization Government Technology Act . Asset. The MGT Act creates a $ 500 million centralized fund over the next two years, managed by the Government Services Administration. Agencies can take advantage of the pool when they ask for help to upgrade their IT systems. The fund allows each agency much more flexibility to pay for modernization efforts .
There is no doubt that the IT modernization of the US government is absolutely necessary . However, given the dubious history of federal efforts to modernize IT – and the CPB’s modernization effort is another ongoing example – I think I’ll end it like this: more it changes, more c & # 39; is the same thing.