Novopay botch-ups still plague schools

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 13/02/2014

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Manawatu school principals beset by Novopay problems are calling the beleaguered payroll system "a dog" as problems continue.

More than a year since the pay system went live, school staff are unhappy with the ongoing trouble causing them to be overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

Some schools had fulltime staff "terminated" and support staff, teacher aides, cleaners and caretakers have borne the brunt of the latest botch-ups.

The start-of-year pay process has sparked concern since the February 5 pay cycle resulted in a marked performance dip from the Ministry of Education.

The number of complaints and notifications filed to the ministry reached the highest amount in almost a year, with 268 schools dealing with pay problems affecting nearly 520 teachers.

Minister Responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce said the number of problems was up because the start-of-year process required a lot of data to be entered by several people across the system in a short space of time.

He has said out-of-date processes in the education sector contributed to the spike in mistakes and it was time to improve other parts of the education system to prevent it happening again.

Lytton Street School in Feilding has formally complained to the ministry about the poor performance of Novopay over the summer period.

The school had seven staff paid incorrectly, one permanent fulltime staff member "terminated" during Christmas week and given only three days' pay, as well as hours of extra work created for the payroll clerk trying to straighten things out.

"Novopay keeps promising to fix things, another fortnight goes by, it is still not fixed," principal Geoff Lovegrove said.

"What is so infuriating is that many of the errors are not the fault of the school - they seem to be ‘random acts of termination', yet the school has to do the fix-up work."

Mr Lovegrove said too many unnecessary details had to be entered into the system and when there was a stuff-up it fell on schools to correct it.

"Novopay was a dog from the outset. It is still a dog, and that's an insult to all dogs," he said.

St Mary's School in Whanganui has also had several staff facing pay problems since school started, with hours of administration work poured into fixing them.

Principal Chris Gullery said the payroll system was substandard and the people in power needed to admit it.

"There is too much political face at stake for [Mr Joyce] to ever say Novopay is a dog, yet it is.

"It's fascinating hearing he is now blaming a top-heavy bureaucratic system, when it's his and the ministry's [fault things aren't working well] - they made it, they maintain it and all this was known when Novopay first started."

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In Pahiatua, Tararua College executive officer Bronny Lea said the start-of-year pay was better than last year but there was still a way to go. Five support staff had pay problems over summer, she said.

Feilding Intermediate School payroll officer Pam Griffen said despite forms being filled in early and to requirement, staff who received annualised pay were being cut off and had been left short since school started.

- Manawatu Standard

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