Schools back Novopay Mr Fixit

By Lin Ferguson

The appointment of Stephen Joyce as minister of sorting out the disastrous Novopay teacher pay system has been welcomed by Wanganui principals School adminstration staff around the area had to give up holiday time to remedy mistakes.

The beginning of the school year is expected to cause more problems, though one school came though the first pay for 2013 without a problem.

In a Cabinet reshuffle this week, Prime Minister John Key appointed Mr Joyce to take over the responsibility for the Novopay implementation debacle with Finance Minister Bill English.

Wanganui Intermediate School principal Charles Oliver said he welcomed Mr Joyce's intervention.

Mr Joyce was a highly astute, intelligent man, he said.

"But good luck, Mr Joyce ... I wish you the very best of luck."

However, Carlton School principal Paul Petersen said he felt sorry for Mr Joyce.

"It's as though he's being handed the poison chalice. He's a highly competent man, and this is a huge task for him. It will take at least a year to 18 months to sort it."

But with just one Novopay round this year, so far Carlton School had fortunately come through error-free, he said.

"But the big test will come in the next pay round in two weeks, when new teachers start and those who have left have to come off the payroll."

This process will affect around 40,000 teaching and ancillary staff around New Zealand and is referred to as start of year, he said.

"Novopay has an online start-of-year form that is at best clunky to fill in. It kept crashing and would not accept data that we would enter."

Mr Petersen said if Carlton School's experience was replicated across the country, he held faint hope for a smooth Novopay start to the year.

"However, we are grateful to our board, who have the will and the resource to pay our staff should the government fail in this fundamental task."

Keith Street School principal Clyde Piercy said Mr Joyce was facing a daunting task and he wished him all the very best.

But this week's Novopay round was not the problem, he said. "It's the next one, when the new staff arrive.

"The round this week was straightforward. It's the next one that will cause the headaches."

"The biggest problem is that Novopay simply cannot handle any fluctuations like a cleaner who doesn't work school holidays, or casual and part-time staff working a few days here and a few there."

Permanent staff were straightforward and there usually were no glitches, he said.

"But anything different, and the system just can't handle it."

At Taihape Area School, a staff member was forced to work through part of her holidays to sort out mistakes. The Christmas holiday pay of 13 support staff at the school was messed up to the extent that two people were underpaid and 11 staff were overpaid by $7500.

Executive administrator Jenny Pearce said "we have contacted the ministry and Novopay and clearly set out our calculations for the year, showing them where they went wrong and how their holiday pays should have been calculated."

Ms Pearce said the school has also asked Novopay how it got it so wrong.

"Our calculations are absolutely correct, so I just don't know what on earth they did."

The Ministry of Education said this week there would be an increased number of errors in the next two pay rounds. Spokeswoman Rebecca Elvy said issues would arise because thousands of staff moved schools at the beginning of a new school year and they started work in a school for the first time or need to rejoin the payroll because they weren't employed during the school holiday.

Mr Oliver said it was just another Novopay nightmare on its way.

"We have a teacher on extended leave who is still being paid and was paid again last night [January 23], and we have been trying to have this corrected since August last year without success."

But sending numerous emails and requests to both Novopay and the Ministry of Education had been a pointless exercise and left the school frustrated.

"We are being totally ignored by both Novopay and the Ministry of Education, and in the meantime thousands of dollars are taken out of our bank account, and we can't get it stopped."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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