Pay saga into overtime

Problems with the Ministry of Education's payroll system Novopay have still not been fixed, leaving Southland education staff fuming.

The problems persist despite ministry assurances measures were in place to ensure overnight payments on Thursday were accurate and earlier errors would be resolved by Christmas.

However, a tally of southern schools yesterday morning revealed the Novopay debacle had not been resolved, with principals and payroll managers throughout the region expecting to clock more long hours during the Christmas holiday, without any promise of compensation.

Southland Primary Principals Association president Ben Witheford spent yesterday morning on the phone with Novopay support services over two new pay inaccuracies at Otautau School.

One involved a staff member being underpaid. The staff member would be paid the correct amount by the school.

Mr Witheford said he understood errors had also happened at other schools in the region.

The latest errors were on top of previously reported pay inaccuracies, he said.

The biggest problem would be dealing with Novopay next month to sort out inconsistencies, he said.

No overall count had been done for inaccurate payments in the south - in which staff have been overpaid and underpaid, and in some instances brought back on to a salary after leaving fulltime employment - but nationally more than 8000 errors have been logged by Novopay since it was introduced five months ago.

A Wakatipu High School staff member said more that 15 errors had been recorded by the school since August.

New Zealand Principals' Association president Paul Drummond said he had received "a consistent flow of emails" from throughout the country yesterday morning, with several coming from various schools in Southland.

As soon as one error was fixed, another one came up, he said.

The ministry was "digging itself into an even deeper hole", and he would be calling for an independent audit of Novopay.

Standout errors yesterday morning included two staff from a Southland school being overpaid by more than $4000, he said.

Remarkables Primary School principal Debbie Dixon said she spent about 45 minutes on hold to the Novopay support centre yesterday dealing with several issues, including a former staff member who had been incorrectly put back on the payroll.

"You fix one problem and another arises - looking at the start of next year there's just no confidence this will be fixed . . . this has already taken up a huge amount of hours."

One of her staff was in a battle with Inland Revenue after Novopay put most of her pay towards her student loan balance.

In response to the New Zealand Principals' Association's call for an independent audit of Novopay, Ministry of Education chief communications officer Leanne Gibson said no independent audit was scheduled but there was a post-implementation review scheduled in the new year.

"We are making progress each pay cycle with addressing issues and improving the service. As we have stated previously, it is expected to take up to a full year [26 pay cycles] to give schools confidence that Novopay is delivering a quality pay service," she said.

The Southland Times