10/05/2017 08:39 EDT | Updated 10/05/2017 08:41 EDT

Feds overestimated, ignored issues with Phoenix before rollout: Review

OTTAWA — A critical report about the federal government's problem-plagued pay system says officials overestimated the project's complexity and seemed to ignore warning signs before giving it the go-ahead.

The report says the most senior officials in the public service didn't fully comprehend the complexity of switching dozens of aging pay systems over to the Phoenix system, a change — first launched by the former Conservative government in 2009 — that was further complicated by cuts to the number of federal pay advisers.

The $165,000 review from an Ottawa-based consulting group also says briefings on the rollout were often positive, usually burying any bad news, and that the department overseeing the project had a strong culture against "speaking truth to power."

So even if there were concerns, the consultants say they were ignored in most cases.

Just prior to the February 2016 launch, testing on the system was surprisingly incomplete, along with a large number of major defects in Phoenix that had "no planned fix date,"say the consultants, who looked at everything that happened between 2008 and April 2016.

Since its launch, Phoenix has resulted in thousands of public servants being either overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.