Memo to those driving future health agency system change: Look at what’s happening at the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) and do the opposite.
SAAQ brings together three elements at the root of system failures: a stripped-down public service, short-sighted management and a government that imposes too tight a schedule.
Like other government agencies, SAAQ has its own administration. When a problem arises, she is the first to explain herself.
Ultimately, the directorate reports to Transport Minister Genevieve Guilbault. Under ministerial responsibility, it is also accountable. So he reduced his work in Europe because of the crisis.
Its role is not only symbolic. SAAQ can be pressured to find solutions and propose solutions. An example: granting a grace period to drivers whose license has expired and cannot be renewed due to delay.
But M intervenedme Guilbalt also had a public relations need. In a critical situation, some ministers are reluctant to appear before the camera if they have nothing to announce. Then the Prime Minister’s Office pushes them back. When in doubt, better look, and quick.
Mme Guilbault, a former spokesman for the coroner’s office, did not need to be briefed. But even if she personally gives everyone a coffee in line, that won’t solve the heart of the problem: the government doesn’t have the means for its IT ambitions. This is what made this crisis possible, and it can be caused in other ministries.
In the fall of 2021, the CAQ government officially created the Ministry of Cyber Security and Digital. Its owner, Eric Gair, has promised to implement a “digital identity” from next summer, which will replace ClicSÉQUR. This unique identifier is intended to simplify and secure interactions with state service providers. It began use with daycare educators last year.
The next step was SAAQ. On February 22, Mr. Cairo’s ministry is proud of the “deployment of its new government authentication solution” in a press release. He is very sensible today.
Of course, this operation is a big challenge because of the problems that existed long before his arrival.
Over the years, the state has needed IT professionals. This is one of the industries where labor shortage is most severe.
In 2021, the CAQ government extended 19 million to hire computer scientists. But according to Quebec’s Public and Parapublic Service Union (SFPPQ), about 1,000 are missing.
So the government has to resort to external sub-contractors. The private sector doesn’t just provide solutions. It helps define requirements, with conflicts of interest involved.
One of the most egregious examples: the RENIR project, which aims to coordinate the communications of emergency services. Two decades since its inception, it has not ended. Consultants are hired at over $1,000 an hour, and at current rates, their work will take years to complete.
Dependence on the private sector has been condemned for years and no government has distanced itself from it.
This brings us to SAAQ and its SAAQcliq platform, which was to use a new digital identity.
According to the union, nearly 200 private consultants work there. This is half the team. Some of them were even established in India, which made communication difficult due to the time difference.
Last year, SAAQ published job vacancies that sounded like a cry for help: “Do you know SAP technology? A place is waiting for you in SAAQ. »
SAAQ felt it had to step on the accelerator so as not to displease the government, and it for its part did not want to be criticized by the opposition.
SAAQ does not stand alone for its vision. If she has a contingency plan, it won’t show. Operating hours have not been extended, urgent cases have not been prioritized and staff numbers have not been significantly increased. Worse, some offices started the system just before spring break, when they were only half staffed.
Is failure predictable? Yes, answered two viewers I spoke to yesterday.
SAAQ says the crisis should end by May. However, this will not be the end of the story. Next step: Expansion of digital identity and ongoing IT modernization projects such as health.
In the name of ministerial responsibility, it is natural that the CAQ government should also be held accountable for what happens at SAAQ. But an even more important question needs to be asked, and it belongs to Eric Geir: What are you doing to prevent this crisis from happening elsewhere?
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