Pay system woes topic

By Lindy Laird

The Government payroll company that failed its school test has been in Northland giving lessons on how to navigate the new system.

Craig McKernan, the principal of St Francis Xavier Catholic School, described the error-riddled Novopay system the Ministry of Education has switched to as "an absolute nightmare for our office staff and executive officers who have worked extremely hard to remedy problems".

He was among more than 50 principals and administration staff from Whangarei and Kaipara schools at a Novopay training workshop at Whangarei Intermediate yesterday morning. Another training roadshow was held in the afternoon in Kaikohe.

"The meeting was an opportunity for us to learn about the payroll procedures for the end of year and beginning of 2013.

"Despite being disappointed with the late notification we appreciated the facilitators' openness to field questions and help school administrators to sort through the concerns that they have," Mr McKernan said.

The nationwide roadshows are taking place when school staff are at their busiest and the pay system its most complicated.

"As principals and school administrators we are sceptical that Novopay is going to be able to handle the payroll changes at the end of the year because it has failed to pay hundreds of teachers and support staff correctly since it's inception," Mr McKernan said.

"As the school year draws to a close principals are grappling with incorrect payroll notices and over- or under-payments.

"This makes staffing and budget forecasting very difficult. Some of us have had to pay teachers and support staff out of school Operational Funding during the last pay period and we still have overpayment issues stemming back to the beginning of Term 3."

Mistakes have been made in many of the 90,000 wage payments made to education employees, with about 1000 staff not paid at all in the first two pay runs after the Novopay system started in early September.

What the Ministry of Education called "teething issues" included staff listed at schools they no longer worked at, and wrong rates, allowances and retirement contributions. The system had no provision for names with apostrophes, such as O'Brien, to be entered.

Long or hyphenated names showed up as additional staff members and part-time staff hours were left out.

The Secretary for Education, Lesley Longstone thanked staff for their patience. She said the system had been paying the most staff correctly.

"We've reduced waiting times at the Novopay service centre, fixed the report schools use to verify their payroll, and we've dramatically reduced underpayments and non-payments from the first pay cycle," Ms Longstone said.

- Northern Advocate

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