New telecom network: 400% cost overrun

Quebec plans to pay almost 400% more than expected to replace the network that allows its employees to use the Internet. And the work is far from over.

In 2017, the Quebec government estimated the bill at $8.2 million for its new government-owned telecommunications network (RGT), which is set to replace the now-obsolete Integrated Multimedia Telecommunications Network (RITM).

Five years later, more than $24 million has already been spent on this project, and the estimated total cost of implementing TMN is $40.7 million, according to the Project Dashboard in the Quebec Government Information Resources. This is a 397% increase from the original forecast.

In addition to being used by government employees to access the Internet (see box), the RGT must be used for the consolidation of data processing centers, the shift to cloud computing, and Quebec’s health record.

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In an interview, the Minister for Cybersecurity and Digital explains that the transition to teleworking has fundamentally changed the requirements of the new network and the cybersecurity issues that come with it. “I therefore prefer to speak of a budget increase rather than a cost overrun,” says Éric Caire.

“In 2019 we had the capacity to manage 750 teleworking connections (…). When the Prime Minister said in March 2020: We are shifting the civil service to telework, we have increased to 55,000 (…). We’re not in the same game anymore,” he said.

The new amount would therefore be in line with the amount planned during the tender in 2020 after a needs assessment, according to Mr Caire.

His department also argues that this portion of the network implementation is part of a larger $144 million contract with Bell Canada for all “operations and operations management services for a maximum period of eight years.” The supplier is free to review the cost of each of the components while respecting the overall budget, the MCN explains.

Despite the skyrocketing costs and new needs, Minister Caire does not believe the government should have presented a new project for its national telecoms network.

“I like to be transparent to the citizen and say: listen, it’s not the same scale, it’s a much bigger project,” the minister explained.

The costs explode

  • Expected amount for 2017: $8.2 million
  • Estimated bill today: $40.7 million
  • The network is used by 34 healthcare network institutions and around 100 departments and offices.
  • To date, 48% of the work has been completed.
  • The end of the project is planned for December 2027.

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