No Novopay inquiry - auditor general

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 13:14 24/01/2013
Lyn Provost
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
AUDITOR-GENERAL: Lyn Provost.

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Auditor-General Lyn Provost says her office is monitoring the problems with education payroll system Novopay, but has decided that there will be no investigation for now.

"The Ministry announced last year that it would commission an independent review and last week said that its review is to be brought forward,'' Provost said in a statement.

''Therefore, I have decided that it would be premature for this office to begin an inquiry at the moment.

"The agencies that are responsible for understanding and fixing the problems should be given a reasonable opportunity to do so.''

Provost acknowledged concerns schools held that Novopay could increase their audit costs.

''We are working with the Ministry [of Education] to minimise the workload for schools on their 2012 financial statements, as well as minimising any additional work that auditors have to carry out,'' she said.

"I fully appreciate that this is a difficult and stressful time for all involved, and I will be keeping a close eye on developments.

"If the steps that the Ministry takes do not adequately address the issues, I will reconsider whether there is a role for my office,'' Provost said.

NO CONFIDENCE VOTE

More heat may go on the Government over Novopay as secondary principals prepare to take a vote of no confidence in the troubled teacher pay system.

Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh confirmed a survey would be sent to 320 principals this week asking whether they had confidence in the system - and warned that there was a high level of ''anger and agitation'' over the ongoing Novopay debacle.

The vote would be known before the next pay round in a couple of weeks.

He said the Government could face a backlash if it ignored an overwhelming vote of no confidence.

It could affect the willingness of schools to cooperate on key government policy objectives, National Standards, and NCEA.

But Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Government was taking the issue seriously.

That was why he had installed fourth-ranked Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce as minister in charge.

Asked about speculation that some teachers were contemplating strike action, Key said he would ''strongly advise'' them against it.

''You can see by my action yesterday I am taking it seriously; I'm not quite sure what striking would do. You strike to get an outcome and we're giving them an outcome.''

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But Walsh said the problems with Novopay had been going on for months.

''There have been 8000 errors, they've had three years to implement the new system; it's cost $30 million . . . principals are angry that they and support staff had to come back on holiday and sort out problems while politicians and ministry staff were on holiday.''

The Secondary Principals Association wanted a full and independent inquiry by the Auditor General.

''The message of we're working on it...is beginning to wear a little thin.

''We want to know...can it be fixed?''

The latest pay round happened overnight Tuesday but so far no significant issues have been reported.

Joyce warned, however, that problems would continue for some time.

Ongoing problems have seen some school staff go without pay for months.

Joyce said ''nobody'' was happy with the current issues, from the Government and ministry officials to Talent2, the Australian company which developed Novopay.

- Stuff

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