Principals: Novopay is still flawed

STEVEN JOYCE: Minister responsible for Novopay.
STEVEN JOYCE: Minister responsible for Novopay.

Manawatu schools have mixed feelings about the Government's takeover of the troubled Novopay teacher payroll system.

After pouring $45 million into trying to fix the error-ridden system, the minister responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, announced agreements with Australian software provider Talent2 had soured and the Government would be taking control.

The system has cost taxpayers $110m over the past two years, $45m more than expected, and the bill is expected to grow with a further $9.6m likely to be spent on the software over the next six years.

News of the pending takeover has been met with wariness by Manawatu principals, with some applauding the Government's move, others saying the action could have come much sooner and some saying a "flawed" system won't be fixed by new bosses. August marks the two-year anniversary of Novopay's rollout and the system has been plagued with problems.

Manawatu school staff reported a number of challenges still surrounding Novopay, including payment problems and difficulties sorting stuff-ups quickly. There were calls for more resourcing to manage the system's shortcomings.

Principals have also said they hope a change of hands means the struggles will subside and the overhaul will bring improvements.

Sanson School principal Jude O'Keefe said knowing "concrete changes" would be made was heartening to hear.

"The system was illogical and didn't follow any principles of common sense nor was it easy to access a real person to talk to and solve issues easily," she said. "Imagine if all that wasted money had been spent in the classroom instead of on a dysfunctional pay system."

Whakarongo School principal Jaco Broodryk said fears remained that little would be done for schools.

Terrace End School principal Sue Allomes said despite high stress levels and extra work there were efforts being made to fix schools' frustrations. "I guess we feel a sense of relief that at last something has changed and now we'll watch, with some anxiety, the progress."

Bunnythorpe School principal Doug Drysdale said the call for control to be taken should have happened earlier.

"I am not sure that it will be much different, because [they're] taking over a flawed system."

At smaller or rural schools, payroll responsibilities often fell to teaching principals, which meant children suffered as a result of frustrations, he said.

"It has meant more of my time spent on sorting issues out which has an impact on time available to spend on improving the learning opportunities for our pupils."

"The takeover is better late than never," Opiki School principal Bede Gilmore said.

"However, this does not restore my confidence in the payroll system, [because] it's the same software that is fundamentally flawed and this is planned to carry on for the next six years?"

St Peter's College principal David Olivier said some good changes to the payroll system had taken place in recent months.

"Looking to the future, this will give us greater confidence in the ability of the ministry to make the changes that are still clearly needed."

Manawatu Standard