Hold fire on Novopay, says principal

By Nathan Crombie of the Wairarapa Times-Age -
Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age
Solway Primary School principal Gail Marshall. Photo / Wairarapa Times-Age

Scrapping the error-ridden Novopay system for school staff could open the door to a whole new wave of payroll disasters, says a Masterton principal.

Gail Marshall, Solway Primary School principal, said she had been working with representatives from the Ministry of Education and Novopay to erase errors from the upcoming "start-up" pay round on Wednesday, the first for the new school year.

She said submissions needed to be made on 10 errors so far identified for the upcoming pay round, including payments for workers no longer on the payroll and missing wages for administration personnel at the school.

"The whole department's been missed - all my office staff - but I'm starting to understand the system more intimately and working one-on-one with the ministry and Novopay means communication is far better.

"The errors are ongoing and there's a lot of paperwork, but I'm actually feeling more confident."

Mrs Marshall said a trouble-free start-up pay is crucial and Novopay should be tolerated until at least March before education bosses consider dumping the system.

"What will we change to? Do we really want to go through another drama?" she said.

"It would be best to get through the start-up and if we're still having the same rate of errors in March then think about moving to a new system."

The New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF) and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa have cautiously welcomed an announcement on Thursday from Novopay Minister Steven Joyce to investigate the shambolic system.

Novopay, which pays about 110,000 school staff nationwide, left more than 8000 teachers across the country overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all and still owes teachers and school support staff almost $12 million in non-payments or under payments.

Mr Joyce had not ruled out scrapping the system entirely and starting from scratch.

"Principals across the country have been under unbelievable pressure since Novopay went live six months ago," NZPF president Philip Harding said. "The level of errors grows with every pay round and our last survey indicated that 97 per cent of principals have no confidence that Novopay will come right in the next 12 months," he said.

Principals last year called on the Auditor-General's Office to conduct an immediate independent review of Novopay to ascertain the extent and seriousness of the state of the software and capability of Talent2 to deliver the education payroll system.

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Judith Nowotarski said the ministerial plan to fix Novopay "is a step in the right direction" but a deadline for repair must be set.

"Our members have had enough and put up with this for too long. They have been paid wrongly, had their third party payments affected, and this has caused a lot of people a lot of stress."

Ms Nowotarski said school staff were returning to work expecting yet another error- ridden pay period and a repair deadline was vital.

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