In what’s being described as a colossal computer malfunction, the entire Canadian government has been thrown into third-party management by an algorithm set up by one of its own departments.
For the past week, virtually all of Canada’s core day-to-day financial and administrative affairs have been effectively handed over to an outside accounting firm known as the RABUF Group.
The situation is being blamed on an algorithm commissioned by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) as part of its controversial Default Prevention and Management Policy, also known as third-party management. Under the policy, federal bureaucrats are able to shift control of any community to another party whenever they decide a First Nation is not in compliance with ISC funding rules.
Designed to remove what some critics called arbitrary and subjective applications of the policy, the algorithm’s rules were set up to automatically place governments into third-party status should they run afoul of its parameters.
“Obviously, we did not anticipate that the algorithm would go so far as to ‘third-party’ the entire Canadian government,” said ISC spokesperson Al Macdonald. “It was not our intent to have the rules we enforce on First Nations applied to us.”
When pressed as to what triggered the algorithm, Macdonald speculated it might have something to do with the fact that many federal employees were still not regularly receiving paycheques due to ongoing issues with the troubled Phoenix pay system, as well as concerns over the Canadian government’s stated plans to run deficits into the foreseeable future.
”As you know, when a band council’s debt goes above 8 per cent of its budget, we throw them—sorry, transition them into third-party management almost immediately.”
However, Macdonald added, Canada governs itself by a different set of standards.
For example, in its last fiscal update, the Liberal government forecast a deficit of $19.9 billion in 2017-18, according to Reuters. The Trudeau government’s inaugural budget projected a deficit of 10.2 per cent of government revenue.
“Alas, the algorithm did not discriminate between the two situations, so here we are,” said Macdonald. “Computers, eh?”
Meanwhile, experts continue to work around the clock to try and fix the problem.
Attempts thus far to reach the RABUF Group at their home base in the British Virgin Islands (the firm does not operate on-site as that is not required under the policy) have proven unsuccessful.