Novopay frustrations reach boiling point

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Horahora School principal Pat Newman. Photo / John Stone
Horahora School principal Pat Newman. Photo / John Stone

A Northland principal is calling for heads to roll at the Education Ministry as the Novopay debacle continues into the Christmas holiday period.

The $30 million staff payroll system by Australian firm Talent2 has been causing headaches since it was introduced in August.

Education Minister Hekia Parata dismissed initial complaints and assured principals the problems would be ironed out in the first few weeks.

However, errors have continued almost unabated.

Principals told the Advocate of administrators reduced to tears and office staff spending large chunks of their working week checking payments and sorting out errors.

Horahora School principal Pat Newman said schools had been promised there would no problems with the Christmas holiday payments. Last week's pay run, however, was riddled with overpayments and other errors.

Last Tuesday his office lady was almost in tears after spending all day checking for errors and alerting staff who'd been overpaid so they didn't spend the money wrongly credited to their accounts - only to be told at the end of the day the pay run would be re-calculated.

Mr Newman said questions had to be asked about the original contract and why Talent2 was not being hit with penalty clauses. He also questioned why Associate Minister Craig Foss was dealing with questions on Novopay, when it should be the minister.

"We expected some errors at the start but this has been going on for 10 weeks.

"We've heard promises time and time again, but the time for promises has passed. We now have no confidence in those making the promises."

Mr Newman said Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone should take responsibility and resign. While she was not in the job when the contract was let, she did advise the minister to go ahead.

"If it was me, I'd be fired tomorrow," he said.

Last week Kaitaia College's board of trustees billed the ministry for more than $7000 in extra administration costs, although the true figure was thought to be twice that.

Principal William Tailby said the biggest problems involved support staff such as caretakers, teacher aides and office staff, but there were also difficulties with teachers being underpaid and pay increases not being received.

After the latest payments the college was in the difficult position of having to ask overpaid staff to pay the money back, when it was not the school's mistake. Mr Tailby said the situation had him "very, very frustrated and concerned".

Education Ministry chief information officer Leanne Gibson said the ministry and Talent2 were working hard to make sure holiday payments went through as smoothly as possible. Delays in holiday payments to some staff were regretted.

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