Principals want Novopay scrapped

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 27/02/2013

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Most Nelson and Tasman school principals and financial officers want Novopay scrapped, as incomprehensible and compounding payroll problems mount.

A Nelson Mail survey asked schools what should be the solution to the Novopay problem.

The most common response was to abandon the beleaguered and mistrusted system in favour of the old Datacom payroll, or replace it with something new that works.

The call for a new payroll system comes just days after the minister responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, announced three planned Novopay software updates by provider Talent2.

One took place over the weekend and the next two would happen in March and April.

Those were designed to address "the most significant bugs in the system", he said.

"I want to assure [schools] that everything is being done to remedy the situation as quickly as possible, but the reality is the issues remain complex and will take some time to resolve," Mr Joyce said.

Principals and financial officers said Novopay problems were not being solved over the phone as they were meant to be, and that complexity was introduced by random software malfunctions which were frustrating and made no sense to anybody.

Henley School principal John Armstrong said it was "nigh on impossible to talk to anyone on the Novopay helpdesk", and when they were reached "they don't know what they are talking about".

"You can't trust any of the pay information they provide," he said. "The time spent on this is immense and it is detracting from our core purpose which is to educate."

Instead of being rectified, Novopay problems were growing exponentially, and with no sign of immediate resolution, he said.

Nelson College's acting headmaster Tim Tucker said it was the same at his college.

"It is difficult to comprehend that not one single tangible or actual solution has been enacted despite such a debacle," he said.

Nelson principals association president and Lower Moutere School principal Barbara Bowen said frustration levels at her school were rising and staff morale was dropping as complaints were directed at staff who were trying in vain to fix compounding pay issues.

"Even if it was fixed tomorrow, the mess it has created will take a year to clean up, if ever."

Mapua School principal Neil Chalmers called the situation a farce beyond comprehension. He said the minister, the ministry, and Novopay were jointly accountable for resolving the situation urgently, not over the coming months.

"Our payroll is complex, but not impossible. Datacom managed well and provided personal service to schools. Let's return to someone that has the capability and professionalism to do the job," he said.

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