New payroll system issues anger schools

By John Lewis

Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent Russell. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent Russell. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Secondary schools around the country are threatening legal action over the Ministry of Education's new payroll system, which schools say is riddled with errors.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent Russell said patience was wearing thin for many school principals and administrators, as problems with the new Novopay payroll system continue.

Mr Russell said schools around the country had been asked by the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand (SPANZ) to keep an accurate record of the hours lost, the financial cost, and the effect of Novopay on their staff, for potential legal claims.

"If someone's pay doesn't go through, and they get penalised by their bank for not paying the mortgage on time, they may want to seek legal redress," he said.

"It's a debacle.

"I'm seeing this right at the coal face. My payroll officer - her workload on this job has trebled since the introduction of the Novopay contract.

"She has other jobs to do as well as this."

Earlier this month, Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone ordered the Novopay Governance Board to meet "as a matter of urgency", following complaints from school boards of trustees, principals and school administrators who had found the new payroll system was a debacle.

The board has identified the key issues and problems with the new system, prioritised them, and is now working on a plan to address them.

However, Mr Russell said it was taking far too long to resolve.

"They spent $30 million on this. I would expect it should work from day one.

"People need to be held accountable."

Mr Russell believed the situation could have been avoided if the new system had been trialled before it was launched.

"You would have thought they could have run the old system and Novopay in parallel for a time, just to make sure it works before it is implemented."

Since being launched, school complaints about the system seemed to fall into five different categories, Mr Russell said.

The first was the help desk service - there seemed to be long waiting times for principals and administrators calling for information about the system.

Getting transactions processed before the cut-off times, the accuracy of control reports used by principals to manage staff pay, and the lack of training resources which help staff operate the system were also identified as issues.

Ultimately, the usability of the system was a major issue, he said.

When asked for a date when the Ministry hoped to have all the issues ironed out, a Ministry spokeswoman said: "All information was to be provided to the payroll reference group in the first instance".

Ministry of Education chief information officer Leanne Gibson said progress was being made against each of the five priorities outlined.

She said the Ministry would meet the Novopay Payroll reference group (representatives from the wider education sector) on Thursday to update them on progress against its plan for resolving the issues.

- Otago Daily Times

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