Novopay decision soon - but more pain to come: Joyce
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Novopay Minister Steven Joyce will decide whether to ditch the error-hit education payroll software within a fortnight, but warned such a move would lead to greater pain in the short term.
To mark six months since the Australian-developed software was introduced, protests are taking place at the electorate offices of up to 35 National MPs this morning.
Joyce, who took charge of resolving the troubles a month ago said today that he had received a draft technical report from Deloitte on the problems with Novopay.
He had requested further information to be included in the final report, including whether the software was stable and an assessment of whether a remediation plan to fix the bugs was working.
From here a decision would be made on whether to keep the existing system or ditch it in favour of a back-up plan which would see payroll software provided by New Zealand company Datacom, which created the old education payroll software.
But he said there was no easy solution and dropping the Australian developed software would create an increased level of errors in the short term at least.
''The decisions we have to make in the next two weeks now, could create a lot of pain for a lot of people in the short term, so which ever way you go there's actually no easy path out from here,'' Joyce told TV One's Breakfast this morning.
''So I'm determined that those be the right decisions so we do get the right decisions for administrators, the ones who are bearing the brunt [of Novopay problems] around the country.''
Speaking to Fairfax, Joyce said that it remained unlikely that Novopay would be dropped altogether, despite many calls for him to do so.
''There's lots of people running around saying you should [ditch Novopay] but I think they're underestimating the acute pain that's involved in making such a shift,'' he said.
''Any change would create more problems in the short term.''
He admitted that if he was in the position of teachers Joyce said he would be ''standing there saying it needs to be fixed today''.
This would not happen, although he said the number of problems was falling and technical bugs were being resolved over time.
''We have seen a steadying of the system, a lot of resource poured into the system, the number of errors have started to stabilise and come down, but it's still unacceptable'' with an error rates of around two per cent.
''You're not going to get perfection here but it certainly should be a lot better than it is.''
Around 80 bugs in the system had been fixed over the last fortnight, and another 150 should be fixed in the next two weeks.
On taking up the role, the Education Ministry had warned the problems could take up to two years to fix which Joyce dismissed as ''totally unacceptable'', although he has refused to target a date at which the problems will be resolved.
While he understood the frustration of teachers, Joyce attempted to spread blame for Novopay, which was first conceived under the former Labour Government.
''This goes all the way back to when [Labour MPs] Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins put it together in the first place,'' he said.
''I understand that they [teachers] want this thing solved, but there's a wider range of villains...This problem goes back many years.''
PROTEST AT PARATA'S OFFICE
Dozens of teachers and supporters this morning gathered outside of Hekia Parata's office in Porirua, north of Wellington, to protest.
About 40 primary school teachers and supporters from as far away as Whangaparaoa Primary School north of Auckland were in the crowd.
A 70-strong protest had also gathered at the summit of Wellington’s Wainuiomata hill.
Other schools represented in the Porirua picket included Tawa Intermediate, Tawa Primary, Brandon Intermediate, Glenview Primary and Pukerua Bay School.
Organiser Yvette Taylor of teachers' union the New Zealand Institute of Education said Novopay had been a disaster for teachers, and she intended to present a letter to Parata when her office opened.
"We want Ms Parata to personally convey an urgent message to Steven Joyce," Taylor said.
"Schools and the public are losing confidence in the Government's handling of this fiasco."
Holy Family school principal Karl Vasau, who had a 10-15 staff, said the problems were affecting people at the "lower end".
"I've had real problems with organising pay for relieving teachers and our caretaking staff," Vasau said.
"I'm here today because it has to be sorted."
Green party co-leader Meteria Turei and Labour’s Mana MP Kris Faafoi were also among the protesters.
Principals' Federation president Philip Harding said the problems had reached crisis point. The federation was also looking at its legal options, as work to improve Novopay appeared to be slowing down.
The results of a technical review expected back by February 28 were still not available.
"They're dragging it out," he said. "Now you're going to see the sector increasingly agitated. It absolutely is at crisis point."
The union would consider withdrawing from ministry initiatives and "sulking" until it got action. "All we want is a stable, user-friendly, reliable pay system.
"Feelings [are] of frustration and anger, and they're growing, not getting smaller."
School staff had been warned that today's pay cycle would be the worst yet.
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