Probe into Novopay pleases principals

Palmerston North school principals are welcoming the Government's announcement that an inquiry is to be launched into troubled payroll system Novopay - but some say it is too little, too late.

Cabinet minister Steven Joyce has confirmed a ministerial inquiry, yesterday announcing a contingency plan which could involve scrapping Novopay.

The multimillion-dollar payroll system has been riddled with problems since it was rolled out in August last year, with school staff being overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all, including one teacher at a small Manawatu school who was erroneously paid $39,000 in one pay cycle.

In the fallout, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone has quit, Cabinet minister Craig Foss was stripped of his associate portfolio and Mr Joyce was installed in a new role overseeing the payroll system.

Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School principal David Jopson was hopeful the inquiry would yield results for schools, sick of working overtime on payroll issues.

"My view is that it has been going on for some time now and I think that the Government has given it a sense of urgency with Steven Joyce as the [responsible] minister.

"I think he's a minister who can make a difference. He has proven that in the past and if he can get to the nuts and bolts of what's going on, that would be really good," Mr Jopson said.

"This next pay period will be the real test."

Labour acting Education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the inquiry was "too little, too late". "A review alone isn't enough. The Government needs a Plan B - and fast. If Novopay doesn't shape up soon, other options need to have been fully investigated," Mr Hipkins said.

"Schools also need a lot more support.

"It's just not good enough that six months after the first botched pay day under Novopay, that schools are still having to throw so much of their time and resources into making sure staff get paid on time."

Riverdale School principal Debra Peck welcomed yesterday's announcement, but was unsurprised, saying although the inquiry had been on the cards for some time - there was a feeling that it should have happened earlier.

"It has come too late to resolve any of the issues, but it's never too late in terms of actually investigating what went wrong and why it went wrong so badly and has continued for so long," she said.

Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre said schools would be waiting to find out what the inquiry meant for them - and redress for the amount of unpaid time already spent grappling with Novopay was a key issue.

New Zealand Educational Institute president Judith Nowotarski said a deadline was needed for resolution of the system's problems.

The union's members had put up with the problems "for far too long", she said. ‘No easy answers', P5

Manawatu Standard