Principal hits out over Novopay

By Teuila Fuatai, Rebecca Quilliam, Kate Shuttleworth

Revelations the Novopay payroll system was signed off despite nearly 150 known faults have been slammed by a Northland principal, with the school pay system expected to cause more problems tomorrow.

Documents released last week reveal that a June report from the Ministry of Education's chief information officer, Leanne Gibson, found 147 defects in the system. Despite the large number of serious to medium level faults, the system was given the go-ahead by independent advisers.

Official documents also found major problems with initial testing of the payroll system - which Education Minister Hekia Parata, Finance Minister Bill English and Associate Education Minister Craig Foss were advised of before they gave approval.

Tauraroa Area School principal Grant Burns said the system, which was developed by Australian company Talent2, was a disgrace.

"I attended the New Zealand Area Schools conference last May. There was a team from Talent2 who were there, looking very slick.

"[They were] very reassuring. The absolute confidence they had their system was going to be so much better than [the previous system] Datacom was absolutely bulletproof ...

at that time."

The Novopay debacle was one of several issues, including proposals around bigger class sizes, charter schools and national standards, that caused tensions between teachers and the Education Ministry last year. With the next pay due tomorrow, schools are expecting more woes.

Mr Burns said schools were spending too much time fixing the botch-ups.

"What does annoy a lot of people is that the previous system was working quite well. It was still largely paper-based. But things worked," he said.

"A gradual evolution towards a more internet-based system would have been the way to go, rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water that they did in this case."

Novopay, which cost $30 million to develop, went live in August. As of January 9, education staff were owed almost $12 million.

Two months before Novopay was signed off by the Government, Talent2 was told it was in contractual default for failing to meet rollout targets.

A breach notice was threatened, however Talent2 argued defects were acceptable for the state of the project.

Talent2 told the ministry to refrain from what it called excessive reviews and attempts to manage it on contract matters.

- Northern Advocate

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