More than 3,000 lawyers working for the Department of Justice Canada received over $50 million worth of time-off because of scheduling errors.
The mix-up was discovered back 2013 when officials of the Public Prosecution Services of Canada discovered that time-off for the lawyers which were recorded in a computer scheduling system called iCase was not recorded in a parallel system called PeopleSoft.
Potential problems with the systems were flagged as early as 2007.
The screw-up was reported by the CBC, which said the lawyers were supposed to update both systems “but for various reasons did not.”
The result was that even when the lawyers took a vacation the payroll system credited them with paid time-owed which they actually did not deserve.
Auditors that investigated the case found a total of 3,747 employees took leaves without properly recording them in the payroll system.
Discounting the 651 workers who have left their jobs already, a report in July 2013 found 3,096 employees who owed the DOJ and average of more than four weeks each. The accounting gap is estimated to be worth between $25 million to $50 million in the lawyers’ favour. Peter MacKay became Conservative Justice Minister on July 15, 2013, just as the errors were discovered.
The department launched a huge operation to reconcile its records and required the lawyers to account for the discrepancies. This included, in many cases, requiring them to sign documents declaring they owe the department money.
According to an insider that talked to CBC, there were also efforts to keep the blunder under wraps and to downplay the amounts involved. Up to now no lawyer has been made to reimburse money although some were made to re-adjust their leave time.
Apart from the massive payroll clean-up, the case also resulted in some union grievances.