Novopay getting 'remarkably' better

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2013

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Schools are stuck with the Novopay payroll software, bugs and all.

Steven Joyce, the minister tasked with ensuring the troubled software is fixed, indicated yesterday that, despite problems still being uncovered, they would need to get much worse for the expensive system to be dumped.

So far the Government has spent $17.2 million more on Novopay than initially forecast, with at least another $3.5m set aside to eradicate software bugs and clear 25,000 historic errors.

Improvements had been slower than expected, Mr Joyce said, and it would remain under review but would not be replaced.

"The decision is Novopay [continues] at the moment, but if at some point things deteriorated again and we had another problem, we do have options."

Since it was introduced last August, thousands of teachers have been overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all.

However, the number of errors has fallen since a $5m remediation plan was launched in March to eradicate software bugs and resolve historic issues.

In the last payment period, complaints were received from 0.26 per cent of the 87,812 people paid, the lowest level since the software was introduced.

Mr Joyce said that, in three of the last four pay periods, the error rate had been below 0.5 per cent, which an independent report had found was normal for complex payroll systems.

But problems continue. Since the remediation plan began, 426 bugs had been resolved, with another 197 identified, in what Mr Joyce said was a "two steps forward, one step backward" process.

Tom Parsons, president of the Secondary Principals' Association, said Novopay had a serious image problem that would continue to dog it, but the improvement had been remarkable.

"If you'd been repeatedly underpaid by it ... whenever the word Novopay comes up you'll roll your eyes.

"Throughout the sector that's happening already, which is a shame because the system of today bears no resemblance to what we had pre-Christmas."

Waikanae School principal Bevan Campbell said Novopay was still not user-friendly, "[but] I think they have been working really hard to fix it up. Now that the powers that be have realised the massive stuff-up, they are actually trying to fix it."

He said $35,000 had been wrongly paid from his school account to past temporary workers who had not earned it, but the issues were finally being "sorted slowly", and the ministry had recently indicated it would reimburse the $20,000 still not repaid.

Tawa College principal Murray Lucas said he was neither "overjoyed" nor "despondent" with the announcement, but just wanted to "get it sorted out and move ahead".

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His school had loaned money to a significant number of teachers who had not been paid properly, particularly support staff. There were still residual issues, but he accepted the ministry was trying to deal with them "bit by bit".

The Government has written off up to $300,000 in small overpayments to teachers that it considers would be uneconomic to collect. It will continue to pursue larger overpayments, which are expected to run into the millions.

So far there has been no claim against Talent2, Novopay's creator, for the added costs and problems, although Mr Joyce has informed the Australian company's chairman the day was coming.

"Everybody appreciates there'll be a 'sorting out' as the end of this process, but no, we haven't done that yet, and it was never my intention to do so until after we've got the remediation sorted."

- The Dominion Post

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