#CyberFLASH: StatsCan says government’s IT agency providing ‘slower, lower quality services’

tories-census-scrubbed-20100721Setbacks and shortcomings at the federal government’s tech support agency could delay Statistics Canada’s release of “mission critical” information required by the Bank of Canada, Department of Finance and commercial banks, according to a report.

The document, submitted to Canada’s chief statistician Wayne Smith, is one among more than a dozen reports, drafted at Smith’s request from all of his directors general. Smith asked for the reports in an effort to fully understand the impact of Shared Services Canada (SSC) on his department.

The memos, obtained by CBC News under access to information laws, detail how yet another federal ministry is embroiled in a dispute with SSC over services standards, red tape, billing and the capacity of IT infrastructure to keep up with departmental demands.

SSC was created by the previous government to centralize and standardize information technology services in a bid to save money.

At the end of February, in the run-up to the 2016 Census, Smith shared the results of this report with Canada’s top civil servant, Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick. The correspondence is entirely redacted except for the subject line, which reads Heightened Program Risks at Statistics Canada.

“Numerous challenges in terms of reliability, timeliness, effectiveness and affordability are being experienced, impacting delivery of programs, projects and plans across all program areas,” wrote Lise Duquet, director general of the StatsCan informatics branch.

She said the savings expected from consolidating services under SSC have not materialized, pointing to how ongoing support from the IT Help Desk is now more costly than when StatsCan operated the email service.

Lack of accountability

Despite “harvesting” $38 million from Statistics Canada with the promise to upgrade IT infrastructure, Duquet said StatsCan was told it would have to cover the cost of migrating all information to new data centres — something she said the agency cannot afford without putting its programs at risk.

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