Novopay debacle costs $3.5m in extra staff

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 10:42 23/05/2013
METIRIA TUREI
CRAIG SIMCOX/Dominion Post
METIRIA TUREI: Schools were getting less out of the deal than Novopay and still had to deal with the ongoing problems.

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Dealing with the bungled Novopay system has cost taxpayers nearly $3.5 million in extra staffing, documents reveal.

The payroll system went live in August and has resulted in endless problems with teachers and school staff being overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all.

Earlier this month the Government announced it was sticking with the beleaguered system for now and would write off $300,000 in small overpayments to teachers.

It has also unveiled a $6m package to help schools with the extra work and a $5m remediation plan.

Information received by the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows the Ministry of Education spent $3,468,100 in the four months to February paying extra staff to deal with Novopay problems.

The money went towards "additional staff hours", which included overtime paid to ministry staff diverted to deal with Novopay and the cost of contract and temporary staff.

Fairfax Media revealed this month that the ministry paid $1.7m in the eight months to March paying 12 contractors to help with Novopay.

The ministry said it also had 17 fulltime-equivalent staff diverted from other ministry work, including seven managers, at the end of February.

"Staff working on Novopay problems during this period were active in providing support to schools to resolve issues and manage deficit identification and resolution," associate deputy secretary of payroll services Rebecca Elvy said.

The cost of diverting the 17 staff was $57 an hour including base hourly rate, holiday pay, ACC levies and subsidies.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the staff costs cast the $6m school support package in a new light. Schools were getting less out of the deal than Novopay and still had to deal with the ongoing problems, she said.

"The $6m compensation is a very small amount when you consider that $3.5m was spent in just four months managing the problems, and it's been going on for well over a year now with no end in sight," she said.

Turei did not expect the Government to get any of the money back.

"This is all money being taken out of the education budget, this is all money that is not going to schools that desperately need it," she said.

"It's going to an overseas company that has failed to deliver on its contract."

A spokeswoman for Steven Joyce, the minister responsible for Novopay, said the focus was getting the system operating properly.

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"The minister has been very clear all the way through that the issue of who pays what in relation to the additional costs and remediation will be settled at the end of the remediation process," the spokeswoman said.

Any attempt to recover the money from Novopay developer Talent2 now would detract from the task of fixing Novopay as quickly as possible, she said.

- Stuff

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