Novopay to stay: 'Change not feasible'

'NOVOPAIN' NOT OVER: Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre and payroll administrator Erica Prier react to the announcement that the troubled system will stay.
'NOVOPAIN' NOT OVER: Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre and payroll administrator Erica Prier react to the announcement that the troubled system will stay.

Novopay is here to stay and Palmerston North schools are bracing themselves to soldier on with the troubled payroll system, which is showing improvements.

There was a chance that a replacement could be brought in for the $40 million electronic payroll system that has frustrated school staff which it has overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all. It was implemented in August last year.

Minister responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce yesterday announced the decision to stick with the beleaguered payroll system. He told reporters that changing now would just increase the workload for school administrators.

Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre called the announcement that Novopay is to stay an "inevitable decision".

"It was the better of two evils. To have introduced another new programme would have created more issues," Mr Codyre said.

Ross Intermediate office administrator Erica Prier had been working overtime dealing with Novopay problems since the payroll system was introduced. She said many of the system's glitches had been ironed out.

Now the Novopay headache lingered only in "small" issues such as the system not paying requested sick leave entitlements and failing to take into account incremental pay increases awarded to staff, Mrs Prier said.

She had grown accustomed to the system despite its issues and had feared a replacement could bring a new set of problems.

"Personally, I'm happy not to have a new system to learn. If I had to go and re-learn all of that it was going to be a pretty big investment of time," Mrs Prier said.

Mr Joyce told Fairfax reporters the Novopay system was showing improvements. Covering payments made on May 1, complaints and notifications were received regarding 0.26 per cent of staff across the country, 27 staff were notified as not paid, 80 were overpaid, and 121 underpaid. Affected staff were from 166 schools or 6.8 per cent of schools in the payroll system. Mr Joyce said that in three of the past four payment periods the error rate had been about 0.5 per cent.

A suggestion that the school payroll system should be switched back to the old Datacom system was not feasible at this stage, as it would require a "complex" switch of a system that processed payments for 90,000 staff and $4.4 billion a year, Mr Joyce said.

The Government also announced it had written off past overpayments made to teachers where it would be uneconomic to try to recover the money. The Education Ministry had come under fire late last year for setting debt collectors on teachers overpaid by Novopay who had not immediately returned small sums of money. The write-off would see up to $300,000 lost as the Ministry of Education declared it would not pursue individual overpayments of $100 or less, with a ceiling of $300 per person until the end of this year when the policy would be reviewed.

Manawatu Standard