Saturday, 9 March 2013

Why Steven Joyce should just man up and dump Novopay.

Last Tuesday, NZEI members throughout the country were asked to show Steven Joyce, the Minister of Everything (including Novopay) that we want action on Novopay and we want it now.  It seems the Minister got a wee bit titchy when the unions confronted him about compensation to schools for the mega amount of time their admin staff has spent on Novopay stuff ups at the expense of their other expected duties, with some schools having to take on extra staff to cover the Novopay workload.  I'm sure you all remember that when he first took on the role back in the end of January that he mentioned this was something he would look into.  So after his titchiness, NZEI thought a show of force might remind him how schools are feeling.  Thirty-five National MPs had a protest of some sort outside of their office, and if some locations didn't have an MP's electorate office, they just protested somewhere people could see them.

I dutifully organised a small protest outside of the office of our local National MP.  During the organisation of this protest, some admin officers shared their experiences of Novopay with me.  I'm sharing two such stories with you. 

Heather is the admin person at a small, isolated rural village school with a roll of less than 50.  The other week, over three days, 11 hours alone was spent on dealing with Novopay.  For the first six months, she couldn't access so many aspects of Novopay through her log in because of one little tickbox that she knew nothing about - instead, Heather had to do her work using the principal's log in, an apparent no-no.  It took six months to solve this problem because the Novopay staff didn't know how to solve it, and despite the fact that she continually reported the problem and was told it was a priority to solve.  In the end someone from the MOE told her how to solve it.  Heather will no longer go through Novopay to solve her little school's backlog of problems; she has decided she gets better results dealing directly with the MOE.  Her school has outstanding pay issues still to be dealt with.

This next part is in the words of Vicki:

I am an office administrator and I too have had numerous issues with Novopay. One example is that last pay period I was on hold for 112 minutes before being cut off as they answered the call. I emailed advising I had been cut off after holding that long and requesting an urgent call back - I'm still waiting!!! I rang again straight away and held for another 1 hour 45 min before the call was answered. That's 4 hours out of my day just on 1 issue!

Vicki is the admin person at another rural school with less than 120 students.

These schools only have one admin person.  They are also expected to answer the phone (a bit hard when you are on hold with Novopay for two hours), order supplies, receive supplies, help students with stationery issues, be the sickbay monitor, monitor accounts, photocopy for staff, assist the principal in admin duties (i.e. newsletters, letters, typing, etc.), laminate and bind, deal with public and parental inquiries, collate and stamp resources and load onto the asset register..... and so much more than I could possibly put in.

In the last six months, these admin wizzes have had their workload doubled by a computer program!!  Some have even walked away from their jobs in despair as they can not bear what Novopay has done to their jobs.

A friend of mine, Louise, recently returned to primary school teaching after two years in private ECE.  She is an experienced teacher with well over twenty years in the profession.  She got her first payslip - and couldn't open it.  She appealed on Facebook for help.  I told her to use her MOE number with a zero in front as a password.  She did.  It didn't work.

Louise was one of those "lucky" people who start a new job and get a new MOE number courtesy of Novopay, despite having a long history with the MOE.  This new MOE number means that Novopay has no record of her qualifications, service, sick leave, etc.  Louise is being paid on the untrained rate, approximately $26,000, almost $30,000 below where she definitely should be, if not more.  She has had to go back to the institution she got her qualification from to get an academic transcript to get paid properly.  She has supplied Novopay with all the relevant details through her school's admin officer, and is now taking bets on when she will be paid at the correct rate.  I bet four months.  If that is so, when she does get paid, she will get a massive backpay, be taxed at a higher tax rate and then will have to wait until after April 2014 to get that tax back.

Today on Q&A, Steven Joyce said he'd be making a decision on the viability of Novopay before the end of the month.  He said that the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning is Novopay (not the toilet?) and that they are doubling or tripling the staff at Novopay to solve the backlog, but that finding skilled people had been a big issue.  He said the government had put $5 million into solving this problem, and later on they would look at getting that money back from Talent2.

Well, Mr Joyce, I have some advice for you:  DUMP NOVOPAY!!!

And this is why:
*  Novopay is a poorly written computer program.
*  Novopay is a poorly built computer program.
*  It had 147 bugs before it went live.
*  Not all of those bugs are fixed six months after going live.
*  More bugs are appearing each pay round in addition to the orginal bugs.
*  No one seems to understand how Novopay was written or built.
*  Other IT experts say it is junk programming.
*  The people at NZ Post have suffered another Talent2 payroll since April 2011 and it is only just now coming right after 20+ months of stuff ups and disruptions.

And all this is in addition to the fact that Talent2 did not meet most, if any, of their milestones and took longer than was planned to deliver the program and that it was never properly trialled.

Mr Joyce says that returning to Datacom, the previous provider, would not fix the problem straight away.  But the big difference between Datacom and Novopay is this:  Datacom uses people to do the work; Novopay is a faulty computer program.  One can reason with a person and work with them to solve a problem; Novopay, being a computer program, is a different kettle of fish.

Under the old system, with Datacom, each payroll officer worked with a small group of schools.  They built a relationship with the principals and admin staff of each school and understood the needs of each school.  Yes, errors did occur, but they never rolled through weeks and months of not being solved like the errors with Novopay have.  With Datacom, often the issue was rectified the next day and a manual payment made by either them or the school to the staff member affected.  Novopay seems to say it will be fixed next payroll.... and then a few months later it isn't and more problems have compounded.

Back in 2008 I had several issues with Datacom over a few weeks when I was relieving in both primary and secondary sectors.  Because my payslips detailed where and when I was at it was easy to contact schools concerned to solve the problem.  On one occasion I had to contact Datacom directly, and after a bit of stern pursuasion, I managed to get through to someone who could solve the problem within days.  I'm glad I'm not relieving now.  To be a reliever being paid by Novopay would send me to the funny farm!!

Several weeks of misspayments was not fun.  But I feel for those support staff workers and teachers who have been affected by over/under/non payments for anywhere up to six months.  If we have to suffer through this for two years like NZ Post staff, then that is totally unacceptable!!

Quite frankly, Novopay has failed to meet the standard, and as a result, Novopay should be kicked into touch as soon as practically possible.