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1998-05-28 00:35:29


Canadian Bureaucrats Predict Failures, Promise Continuity



Here is typical bureaucraric gobbledigook. This gobbledigook sells well because it's what everyone wants to hear.

The government's top CIO (chief information officer -- director of programmers) says that not all government systems will make it. He is followed by a senior bureaucrat (not a computer person) who promises continuity of services.

He must be reading John Koskinen's script.

He says there are no agency contingency plans. This omission was deliberate. It allowed agencies to concentrate on getting y2k fixed. ("It's not a bug; it's a feature!")

This is from the OTTAWA CITIZEN (May 27).

* * * * * * * * * * *

The federal government admitted yesterday it cannot guarantee all its computer systems will be rid of the millennium bug on time but promised emergency plans will be in place to ensure most services are delivered.

Chief information officer Paul Rummell told the Commons public accounts committee the government is stepping up its monitoring of departments' progress in the coming months to ensure all major computer systems are ready for final testing by early 1999.

When pressed by MPs, however, Mr. Rummell and his officials simply wouldn't guarantee all systems would be ready by 2000. . . .

The lack of contingency plans was a major concern of a task force on the government's readiness for 2000. The government did not want to force departments to set up contingency plans until now because it would have diverted time and staff from fixing the computer systems.

Hy Braiter, a senior bureaucrat who headed the task force, said if departments developed contingency plans earlier they would have wasted time on plans for entire systems. By delaying until the fall, departments must devise backups for only the problems or glitches yet to be fixed. . . .

Mr. Braiter said the government's target of having its 44 major computer systems repaired and tested by early 1999 will leave plenty of "comfort room" for departments to use their systems and ensure they work. By that time, Mr. Braiter said, departments should have done the preliminary testing and can devote most of 1999 to the final trials. . . .

But Reform MP John Williams, who chairs the public accounts committee, said these contingency plans should have already been made. Leaving them so late could mean some Canadians will be "left high and dry" without the services they need.

"They left everything too late -- years too late -- but it's not just Canada, it's the whole world," he said.

Mr. Williams questioned whether the government has time to adequately test its systems if most won't be ready for final trials until early next year. The government has estimated that testing will account for more than half the time and cost of fixing the bug.

"If they don't start that testing until next year they have left themselves a very, very short time because that means that more than half of the work still has to be done." . . .

Mr. Rummell said the Canadian government is ahead of most other countries with about 40 per cent of its systems fixed. The computer systems that run some of the government's most important programs and services, such as the processing of income tax, Child Tax Benefit, Old Age Security, Canada Pension Plan and employment insurance have been repaired and are undergoing preliminary testing.

But Mr. Braiter said even if these key systems fail the government won't have to resort to writing cheques by hand. Instead, it would continue to issue cheques to claimants based on their previous cheques until the problem is fixed.

The government has spent about $111 million repairing its computer systems in addition to a $5-million contract with seven major technology companies, which could go as high as $1.4 billion.


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