The delay-prone provincial Children’s Aid Society computer network is further proof the Liberal government is incapable of handling multimillion dollar information technology projects, a Tory critic says.
MPP Jim McDonell (Stormont—Dundas—Glengarry) said “time and time again” IT contracts initiated by the Liberals have been wrought with problems, the most recent being the overpayment of millions of dollars to social service recipients.
“They just can’t get it right . . . the oversight is just not there,” he said Monday.
The Toronto Star has reported that despite the urging by the Jeffrey Baldwin coroner’s inquest just over a year ago to have the province-wide $122-million centralized computer system — designed to track children in CAS care — up and running within two years, it is not expected to be ready until 2019-20.
Five-year-old Jeffrey died in 2002 after being placed in the care of his grandparents by Toronto’s Catholic CAS despite the fact they had previous convictions for child abuse, something that wasn’t discovered until later by the CAS when poring over its files.
“They (the Liberal government) don’t even want to put a deadline on this one (the CAS computer system, also known as CPIN) because when they do they never meet them,” McDonell said.
He noted that to make matters worse the government is using the same software system for the 46 CAS agencies across the province that was used in the province’s new problem-plagued $240-million Social Assistance Management System (SAMS). The government has confirmed CPIN uses the same base application — Curan/IBM — as SAMS.
“They (the government) wastes hundreds of millions of dollars but there are never any penalties . . . it’s like when you get a contract with the Ontario government it’s like you’ve won the lottery,” said McDonell, who also pointed to the 2009 $1-billion electronic health records — eHealth — scandal.
Minister of Children and Youth Services Tracy MacCharles has insisted that transferring millions of records from the old system to CPIN is a “large, complex and delicate process . . . that takes time and requires serious consideration.”
A spokeswoman for MacCharles said Monday: “To date, the implementation process is proceeding well and according to plan, based on the readiness of each CAS. As is the case with any project of this magnitude, there may be bumps along the way and we are committed to examining and addressing any issues that may surface.”
NDP Children and Youth Services critic MPP Monique Taylor said having CPIN functioning by 2019-20 “isn’t good enough.”
“The Minister of Children and Youth Services should provide more detail and explain why they can’t meet the 2016 deadline,” Taylor said in an email statement.
Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, said part of the problem with CPIN is that front-line workers were not consulted whatsoever — in direct contrast to the introduction of previous systems.
“Whether it has to do with the CAS or whether it’s happening with SAMS in social assistance, our folks are well versed in how to deal with the computerization of this kind of work and the data that they use in their jobs,” Hahn said.
“Our people aren’t again modernizing technology but there is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. And it seems very much this is the wrong way to do it,” he said referring to the introduction of CPIN.