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The IT crowd: Federal government's IT department can't prove savings

February 2, 2016 9:18 A.M.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA — A critical audit of the federal government's central information-technology department says Shared Services Canada can't show whether it was saving the government any money, nor whether systems and data were secure.

The audit found Shared Services Canada knowingly went ahead in February 2015 with the first wave of a new, unified email system for the federal government that had two high security risks that were mitigated in July 2015.

In many cases, the audit found, agencies and departments that work with Shared Services Canada had little involvement with the IT department, and didn't communicate on expectations.

That kind of disconnect was at the heart of an incident in Saskatchewan in March 2014 when every first responder in the province lost radio contact for 40 minutes.

Shared Services Canada rendered a critical feature of the radio network unavailable during an upgrade, leaving some 9,000 police officers, fire officials and paramedics without a vital communications link.

Auditors said the outage could have been avoided had Shared Services simply checked with the RCMP and local responders about the network upgrade.

Shared Services Canada spends about $1.9 billion annually to oversee services to 43 of the heaviest IT users in the federal government and was set up in 2012 by the previous Conservative government to save taxpayers millions annually by reducing costs and eliminating duplication.

It was supposed to do so by creating a single email system for federal workers and consolidating 485 data centres to just seven by 2020.

The email project is about one year behind schedule, auditors said, and there wasn't enough information from Shared Services Canada to determine whether decommissioned data centres were actually closed.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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