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Ferguson stands by criticism of Phoenix pay system as incomprehensible failure

Last Updated Jun 14, 2018 at 7:40 pm EDT

Auditor General Michael Ferguson holds a press conference following the tabling of the AG Report in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. Ferguson stands by his characterization of the Phoenix pay system as an "incomprehensible failure" and his critique of public service culture days after the country's top bureaucrat slammed those aspects of his spring report. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – Auditor general Michael Ferguson is standing by his conclusion that the federal public service’s “obedient” culture led to the “incomprehensible failure” of the Phoenix pay system.

Ferguson reiterated his criticisms Thursday before the House of Commons public accounts committee — just two days after the top federal civil servant blasted the auditor general’s critique of the public service as “an opinion piece.”

Ferguson’s audit report last month concluded that the Phoenix system was an “incomprehensible failure” of project management and oversight, which led to green-lighting a system that wasn’t ready.

The report said it was unfathomable that no one spoke up to say it wasn’t going to work and needed to be stopped; it blamed “an obedient culture” among public servants — a message Ferguson repeated at committee Thursday.

Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick disputed that conclusion during an appearance before the same committee earlier this week, accusing the auditor of making “sweeping generalizations” about public servants.

The Phoenix system has resulted in thousands of federal civil servants being under-paid, over-paid or not paid at all.

Ferguson is scheduled to appear before the committee again next week, when members said they intend to delve deeper into Wernick’s criticism of the auditor general’s message.

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