No surprise to keep Novopay

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 08/05/2013

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Nelson schools are not surprised Novopay will stay, saying the Government had no other choice.

Minister responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce announced yesterday the Government will stick with Novopay but is giving up on recovering losses incurred due to overpayments.

Talent2 will continue to administer the troubled school payroll, though the system would remain under long-term review, Mr Joyce said.

"Making a change now would increase the work for payroll administrators in the short-term . . . not decrease it," he said.

"You can't just switch a complex $4.4-billion-a-year payroll that pays around 90,000 people every fortnight without creating more issues."

Nelson Principals Association president Barbara Bowen said she was not surprised by the decision and believed the Government could not afford a new system having invested so much in Novopay.

She said increased government transparency had been welcome, though it had taken a long time to get to that point.

"It has taken a while, but Steven Joyce is putting every effort into fixing it and now you can see all that action going on."

She said Lower Moutere School, where she is principal, was still resolving backlogged issues, but was not finding new errors as often as it had been.

"The feeling around the place is that we all need to move on and work with the system because we don't have another one that works."

Mr Joyce also said the ministry would not be recovering money from slightly overpaid school staff, because doing so would be uneconomic.

The use of debt collectors remained suspended until further notice, he said.

Mr Joyce said the ministry would write-off all overpayments of less than $100 - a loss of between $200,000-$300,000 of government money.

Mrs Bowen said that was a concern. Teachers' salaries were paid by the ministry, but support staff were often paid out of the school operating budget.

"There's lot's of under-$100 amounts that add up. Especially for a small school, that could be quite significant," she said.

"If the Government is not going to chase it and it is school money who is going to chase it up?"

Nayland College payroll administrator Bev Williams said she welcomed the ministry decision "so long as they fix the root cause of the problem".

She said issues were being resolved more quickly, but were recurring. That meant Talent2 were only making "quick fixes", which meant additional work for administrators who had to liaise between the payroll provider and members of staff to resolve repeated problems.

Mrs Williams had been advising overpaid staff to put the money aside and wait for instruction from Government.

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Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said she understood the minister's decision but hoped the Government would seriously consider replacing Novopay if the ongoing review found that bugs were inherent in the software platform.

She said she was concerned that Novopay would not be fully tested again until the end of the school year, when staff turnaround meant lots of payroll changes and updates.

She did not want a repeat of the past turmoil.

- The Nelson Mail

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