11/30/2014 06:41 EST | Updated 01/30/2015 05:59 EST

OPSEU says government warned about problems with software

The Ontario government was warned "months ago" about flaws in a new system that helps disperse social-assistance payments, says the union that represents the workers tasked with administering those programs.

Thousands of Ontarians were recently issued cheques and direct deposits they weren't supposed to be receiving, following the rollout of the new Social Assistance Management System this month.

Amber Anderson, who is a spokesperson for Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek, said some 6,000 wrongful direct transfers or cheques were sent out, but were ultimately cancelled or retrieved.

However, Anderson said that 253 people received a total of about $300,000 that has yet to be collected.

Over the weekend, the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union said the province was told about problems with its software well before the first payments went out.

"The government has spent four years and $250 million dollars on this system," OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas said in a statement issued Saturday.

"All it has accomplished so far is havoc in the offices, overpayments to recipients and now there's a possibility some may not receive any money prior to the holidays. It's a total mess and could have been avoided if the government had listened to the workers instead of relying on software consultants."

Thomas said the government should revert to its old system until the problems with the new system are resolved.