Novopay defended after muzzle ends

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 07:38 22/11/2012

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The Australian company behind the Novopay fiasco has defended the payroll system and says school administrators have not fully embraced it.

Talent2 fronted up to the media for the first time yesterday, after the Education Ministry lifted a muzzle on the company.

A clause in the company's $100 million contract with the ministry has prevented it from speaking until now.

Chief executive John Rawlinson admitted Talent2 would probably be penalised for Novopay's performance in its first three months of operation. But he stood behind the technology, saying it should save taxpayers a fortune in the long run.

Software bugs were not the root cause of the issues that have seen thousands of teachers paid incorrectly or not at all, he said. Instead, school administrators had not embraced a system that let them enter data into Novopay directly online.

Muritai Primary School principal Andrew Bird said the comments were outrageous and "defamatory of the hundreds of school secretaries who have put their heart and soul into making sure that staff are paid with such poor service from the Talent2 team, and indeed the Ministry of Education".

Labour education spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta said Talent2 had "failed to give schools a straight answer on when the system will be fully implemented", and financial compensation "will be the only apology acceptable at this stage".

Mr Rawlinson said Novopay was not hard to use but "not as easy as an Apple iPad".

"Unfortunately the training we did was largely online and some people were not able to get on to the training.

"I am certainly not saying it has been the sector's fault. We have offered more rounds of training and support."

However, Mr Bird said: "My executive officer has never made an online error in terms of loading information, was well trained and understood all that was required of her before we went online, and the errors at the other end do not match the entries that have been made."

Talent2 would accept any performance penalties, and Mr Rawlinson said that, even without them, the company was losing a "significant amount of money" on the contract because of the extra costs it had taken on.

These included hiring nine additional experienced staff for its service centres.

"It is not just the sector that has suffered some stress. It has been brutal on our own people," he said.

He expected outstanding errors would get "less and less" with each payroll cycle.

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- The Dominion Post

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