Manitoba Public Insurance looks for help to keep technology modernization project on budget

Manitoba Public Insurance is looking to hire an outside consultant to help keep a major project to modernize its technology on budget and on time.

That’s according to a request for proposals tabled by the Opposition NDP during question period in the Manitoba legislature on Monday.

Project Nova, which is aiming to help move more of the public insurer’s services online, has already faced cost overruns and delays, with a budget that rose from less than $107 million to nearly $290 million over a few years.

The insurer sent out the request for proposals about a month ago, as it searches for expert advice and coaching that will allow it to deliver the full scope of Project Nova without taking longer or spending more than what’s budgeted.

In January, the insurer’s rate application to the Public Utilities Board, an arm’s-length from government entity, detailed significant increases in the Crown corporation’s budget to pay for the project.

Project Nova began in 2020 with a budget of $106.8 million — a number that increased to $128.5 million the next year.

The timeline for completing Project Nova was later extended from three to five years, and the budget is now in a range of $257 million to $289.9 million, the rate application said.

WATCH | Crown corporation issues request for proposals to keep project on track:

Manitoba Legislature Report: Costs for Project Nova soar to $290M

7 hours ago

Duration 2:12

Manitoba Public Insurance wants to hire an outside consultant for expert advice and coaching to deliver the project, which will see some of its services moved online.

The Public Utilities Board said at the time it ordered the insurer to provide reports related to the project so it could monitor expenses. 

Matt Wiebe, the NDP’s critic for Manitoba Public Insurance, said there have been problems with the project from the beginning.

“We have a lot of concerns about how the project has been rolled out, but ultimately it’s about trust and it’s about the fact that this government has mishandled this every step along the way,” said Wiebe, the MLA for Concordia.

It’s still unclear exactly how much hiring an external consultant would cost. But Kelvin Goertzen, the minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance, said the Crown corporation isn’t getting any more money than what’s currently budgeted to finish Project Nova.

Goertzen said the project has already gone over budget in part because of underestimates the insurer made internally.

“The initial scoping was obviously too low. [There] probably were a lot of folks who said that to begin with,” he said.

“But as recently as last week, it’s been reiterated there are no additional funds that are going to be made available for this project. And they reiterated last week that they don’t anticipate needing additional funds.”

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