Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's time to play The Harper Government's favourite summer game: "Whack a bureaucrat and get paid!"

Defence executives received $2M in bonuses last year while cutting staff
By David Pugliese
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has no oversight or authority of department performance pay, his spokesman said in an e-mail Wednesday. (Photogrpah by: Seah Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — Executives at the Defence Department were awarded almost $2 million in extra pay and bonuses last year as they laid plans to cut public service jobs and tried to manage equipment procurement projects that faced delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

The money was for the executives to meet either established goals or to “encourage excellent performance,” according to an email sent by the Defence Department Wednesday to the Citizen.

It took the Citizen more than a month and five requests before DND agreed to release the information about bonuses awarded last year. Those covered the fiscal period from April 2010 to April 2011.

One hundred and fifty-seven public service executives received what is known as “at risk pay.” That worked out to $12,258 per executive, according to DND.

Seventeen executives also received additional money totalling almost $75,000. Those bonuses worked out to $4,400 each.

The money comes as more than 1,000 public servants at DND have been informed their jobs are being cut.
The news of the extra pay has infuriated union leaders.

John MacLennan, national president of the Union of National Defence Employees, said he heard about the bonuses when one of the executives recently told him how bad she felt accepting the money as she was laying off workers.

“She may have felt bad, but it couldn’t have been that bad because she still took the money,” said MacLennan, whose union represents 19,000 workers at DND.

MacLennan said the extra pay covers the period when executives started their strategic review to trim costs at DND. He expects such bonuses to increase in the coming years since the Conservative government has said those payouts will be tied to how many workers can be cut.

That 2011-2012 pay has still not been calculated, according to DND. It did not indicate when those bonuses would be issued to executives.

But MacLennan said giving extra pay to managers at this time is sending the wrong message to workers.

“The Conservatives say we’re in a period of financial restraint,” explained MacLennan. “OK, then let’s make it financial restraint for everybody including the executives.”

Defence Minister Peter MacKay could demonstrate fiscal accountability and cancel the bonuses, he added.
“MacKay has been under the gun for wasting money on the F-35 and on his helicopter ride, so it would be the smart thing to do and it would show leadership,” said MacLennan. “But even though he has the power he won’t cancel them.”

But MacKay’s spokesman Jay Paxton said the minister is not involved.

“Minister MacKay has no oversight or authority of departmental performance pay — his primary focus is to support the men and women who fight to protect Canada,” Paxton noted in an email. “Performance pay is implemented by Defence officials within established guidelines and I refer you to their answers on the subject.”

According to the email from DND, “as in the private sector, it would be expected that most senior personnel would receive some at-risk pay.”

Executives are eligible to receive performance pay “when they meet the commitments and targets outlined in their performance agreement,” according to the email.

DND is in the process of eliminating a range of jobs, from clerks and secretaries to food services and kitchen staff. Other jobs being cut include radiation safety personnel, weapons technicians, ammunition technicians, heavy truck mechanics, laboratory assistants, drivers and defence scientists.

DND executives have not only been coming up with plans to cut spending and jobs but they have also had to deal with a number of equipment purchases that have increased in cost, have been derailed, or are being delayed. Those range from the controversial purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter to ongoing delays in buying trucks, armoured vehicles and search and rescue aircraft.

Last month the Citizen revealed that senior managers at Veterans Affairs Canada received almost $700,000 in bonuses and extra pay last year even as their department came under fire for failing to help former soldiers.

The last several years have seen numerous complaints from veterans about poor treatment from the department and breaches of their privacy by Veterans Affairs bureaucrats.

The total paid out to the 57 department executives for last year was $696,287, according to government figures. The department didn’t break down the amount each individual received but if evenly distributed, each manager would have been paid a little more than $12,200.

The payments angered veterans who say the department’s managers have fallen short on providing services to former military personnel.

A Conservative government official speaking on background said there was little Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney could do about the bonuses since they are determined by Treasury Board and Veterans Affairs senior management.

But that response isn’t good enough, said veterans advocate Sean Bruyea of Ottawa. “He’s the minister so isn’t he in charge?” said Bruyea. “The senior managers work for him and if Minister Blaney can’t manage them then maybe someone new should be brought in who can control the bureaucrats.”


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