Schools welcome news on Novopay

Nelson schools are relieved to hear the Government will take over the troubled Novopay teacher payroll system, saying any change will be better than what they have been dealing with.

After throwing $45 million at trying to fix the troubled Novopay teacher payroll system over the last two years, Steven Joyce, the minister responsible for Novopay, announced yesterday the Government would take control.

Taxpayers will spend a further $9.6m over six years to use the software provided by Talent 2, the Australian company which designed and has administered the system and which, after weeks of negotiations, has refused to spend any more to fix the long-standing issues.

The system has cost taxpayers $110m over the past two years - $45m more than expected.

Bev Williams, executive personal assistant at Nayland College, has spent many hours over the past two years trying to sort out payments for staff at Nayland that went wrong.

While there were fewer issues in recent months, she said the announcement was good news.

"Given all the problems that they have had, and how much money they have spent - it can't be any worse."

She said going through to a call centre with problems had not been easy.

"They have been difficult to deal with at times. You get told different things."

She wants to see dedicated experts for teaching and support staff to deal with any problems.

"It would be so much smoother to have a representative to deal with teachers and one who dealt with support staff. With the current lot, you go through the call centre, and often they have to go to someone else to find the answer to your question. It would be nice to ring up and get a real person answering your question."

She said two years was a long time for teething problems and she was glad to see action taken on the system.

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said his problem rate was also decreasing but they also had many historical issues which he feared would be written off.

"We still can't get our accounts audited properly. We are actually owed money but Novopay has no way of calculating that properly."

He estimated the school was owed $20,000 because of the system, and the school had had to hire an additional staff member to deal with payroll issues.

The system was still a "total dog".

"Software is notorious for unknown errors if it is not well-sourced from the ground up." He said most issues were at the start and the end of the year, and all holiday pay was incorrect last year.

O'Shea hoped for better communication with the change.

"If it all comes under one umbrella they will be talking with one voice instead of us getting mixed messages. That has to be good. For us, it's wait and see. It's certainly better than it was, then again, it couldn't get much worse."

PPTA Nelson regional chairwoman Anna Heinz said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the change.

"At first it was a compete disaster and it staggered to being less of a disaster, but it is still extraordinarily time-consuming with errors.

"There was a huge task involved with unpicking errors which is still ongoing," she said.

Joyce said "considerable effort" had gone into improving the system with some success but after recent negotiations, Talent2 had decided it was "not prepared to provide the extra resources that are necessary for further developing of the system within the current contractual arrangements".

Talent 2 will pay $22m in compensation in cash and discounted services, leaving taxpayers $23m out of pocket.