Novopay debacle depletes school cash

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012

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Many schools will begin the new year out of pocket as they scramble to reclaim thousands of dollars siphoned out of their accounts through incorrect Novopay payments.

While the Ministry of Education was pleased the last pay of 2012 yesterday "went more smoothly than last week's", about 300 school staff were left without their holiday pay.

And the ministry was still "correlating information" on overpayments made to staff.

Waikanae School principal Bevan Campbell has seen $38,000 taken from the school's account to incorrectly pay support staff or even ex-staff in the past three Novopay cycles. Errors were minimal to begin with but it had become "an absolute disgrace".

Fourteen staff were overpaid yesterday- some given about $2700 when they should have been given about $19, and one paid $3241.56 when they were owed nothing.

It placed the school in financial risk, heading into 2013 about $38,000 out of pocket.

"Thirty-five thousand dollars was removed and placed in to 14 people's bank accounts and there is no mechanism that we can see to retrieve that money and put it back.

"I don't even think they can track it. They don't even recognise it's a mistake in the first place."

Mr Campbell even notified Talent 2 about the errors in advance.

"They have had eight days to sort it and they didn't. Even then they couldn't get it right.

"The system is so terribly, terribly flawed - full of bugs."

He now had to track down the staff to ensure the money was not spent.

Schools were given from 5am to 11am on Thursday to analyse the final report, identify errors and stop the payments from going through.

But it was unlikely with school closing up for the year and many already on break, he said.

"We're left behind to clean up the mess. It's an absolute disgrace.

"I'm extremely annoyed that we have to do this. The people responsible for letting this system loose need to be held accountable."

Education Ministry chief information officer Leanne Gibson said more than 73,000 permanent school staff received their final pay yesterday.

She was pleased the "pay run went more smoothly than last week's".

About 300 school staff owed holiday pay did not receive it, but she assured them they would before Christmas.

She "appreciated" concern from schools about some overpayments to staff, and the ministry would work with them on that issue. It would pay staff directly if they were not paid or significantly underpaid.

Labour's acting education spokesman Chris Hipkins said it was "not good enough that ministers are lying on the beach or busy gangsta rapping on radio" while teachers waited to be paid what they were owed.

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- The Dominion Post

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