New glitches spark call to ditch Novopay system

Southland schools are struggling with new Novopay problems, prompting some to suggest it might finally be time to ditch the plagued system.

The Government has now pledged $43 million to fix Novopay glitches, which have been frequent since the payroll system was introduced in 2012.

Southland Primary Principals' Association president Ben Witheford said that, after promising signs last year, pay periods this year had been fraught with new "time-wasting" problems.

One staff member had been paid for 80 hours' work when she had worked only 55 hours, others had found their special allowances suddenly stopped, and wait times for the Novopay helpline, which had improved, were back to unacceptable levels, he said.

Mr Witheford had also been told of schools not being able to log into the Novopay system at all.

In March last year, Minister Responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce said he hoped all problems would be fixed by June last year, which Mr Witheford believed was not an unreasonable expectation at the time.

"I would have agreed with him last year. There seemed as if there was progress."

However, as several new problems had occurred this year and lingering concerns were still to be resolved, it could be time to scrap Novopay, he said.

"The system has had long enough. It's had enough money put into it. I think they need to seriously look at building something that's going to work."

Mr Witheford acknowledged that Novopay had to cover a complicated pay system, but even if this was "perfectly streamlined", the system still would not be up to scratch, he said.

St Theresa's School principal John Lieshout said his school had been advancing pay to some staff members, as there had been problems actually getting them on to the Novopay payroll.

He hoped things would be worked out within a few months, but he was not convinced.

"I think there's still a lot of improvement left. I would hope that it would be fixed, but I'm not that confident."

Not all Southland schools have been so hard hit, with some reporting only minor problems.

East Gore School principal Wes Gentle said although the school had experienced problems during the start-of-year process with teacher aides' pay, things seemed to be coming right.

Education Ministry education payroll services deputy secretary Cathy Magiannis said the error rate for the new school year was significantly better this year than last, but there was still work to do.

A higher rate of errors was expected over the end of a school year and start of a new year, as it was the busiest payroll period, but the Novopay system and software were running a lot better than they had this time last year, she said.

The main problems had been traced to data-entry errors and there were also concerns with the way the service-centre model worked, but that was being revised, with changes to be introduced in the first half of this year.

The Southland Times