Parata survives but Joyce called in

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2013
PUBLIC FACE OF BLUNDERS: Education Minister Hekia Parata.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
STAYING PUT: Education Minister Hekia Parata.

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Education Minister Hekia Parata has kept her job - and dodged a bullet over the Novopay fiasco.

Prime Minister John Key drafted in Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to sort out the shambolic payroll system, which has dogged the Government since September.

He also stripped associate minister Craig Foss, who had responsibility for the system, of his portfolio.

Mr Key insisted the debacle - which has hit hundreds of teachers in the pocket and resulted in schools starting the new year in the red - is now a "major priority" for the Government.

He put Australian provider Talent2 "on notice".

Although the Government will not dump its contract with the human resources company, Mr Key said the problem was now a "commercial' one.

He hinted Talent2 could face penalties for the ongoing saga.

The $29 million payroll system has been plagued with problems since its introduction last year, and led to Education Ministry boss Lesley Longstone announcing in December that she was quitting.

Teachers were due to be paid overnight in the first round of the new year - and further errors were inevitable.

Mr Key conceded the problems were "deeply embedded" and would take "some time" to fix.

Mr Joyce was "thorough, meticulous and can be tough", he said.

Mr Joyce immediately met ministry officials yesterday and plans a meeting with Talent2.

But although he admitted the Government has lost patience over the issue, he said it was too early to comment on financial penalties.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff suggested the move was designed to take the heat off Ms Parata, who has copped flak for a series of blunders in her portfolio.

Ms Parata also retained her seventh place Cabinet ranking in yesterday's reshuffle, with Mr Key forced to defend her again yesterday at a press conference.

Mr Duff said Mr Joyce's appointment was "third time lucky" - after Mr Foss and Ms Parata failed to deal with the Novopay problems. "The cynic would suggest that it is deflecting the criticism that would have been likely to have gone the minister of education's way."

A review was needed urgently and any money raised from penalties should be diverted into allowances for schools and staff affected, he said.

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said Mr Key did not have confidence in Ms Parata to resolve the problems.

It was time the Government lined up alternatives to Talent2. "If they don't get it right and get it right really fast, it should be ditched."

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