Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Novopay: A dog with fleas, a bad case of fleas.

Novopay is a dog with fleas.  Steven Joyce said that in February 2013 a couple of weeks after John Key gave him the responsibility of fixing Novopay aka Nopay, Novopain or Nevapay... we in the education profession have found the only fun in Novopay, apart from the surprise of actually being paid, is making up new names to describe its poor performance.

Here we are 18 months later and Steven makes this announcement:

After pouring $45 million in to fix Novopay, the teachers' payroll system is no longer a "dog" and teachers will be thankful that the Government has taken it over, Prime Minister John Key says.

Senior Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce, who last year described Novopay as "a dog" today said a Government-owned company would assume management of the system from Australian company Talent2 from October this year.

He said "pretty good progress" had been made in recent months to fix the system which has been plagued with problems including large numbers of over and under payments to teachers since it was introduced in 2012.

However, remaining issues prompted contractual issues in recent weeks and Talent2 had not been prepared to provide extra resources necessary for further development of the system.

It had become clear "that the best outcome would be a change in the provider relationship".

Opposition parties seized on today's announcement as yet another admission from the Government that the system had been a costly disaster, but Mr Key defended the decision.

"If you look forward, the sector will take quite a lot of confidence that effectively the Government is taking over the programme and the project. They'll know it will be properly resourced and properly looked after."

When reminded that Mr Joyce had called it a dog he said, "Yeah, but I think it's come a long way since then".

"It's actually fundamentally operating pretty well. This is a very complex sector there's a lot of different pay scales for teachers it's not an easy thing. But the Government has stabilized it and got it working reasonably effectively and I think a lot of teachers will say thank goodness the Government now has some control over the process."

He said it was possible to make the argument the Government should have assumed control earlier, "and hindsight's a wonderful thing".

However the Government had now made "the right call" over the system which he said was originally signed up to by the previous Labour Government.

President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation Philip Harding said his members were encouraged that Talent2 had withdrawn from managing the system, but warned "there is a long way to go before principals will have any confidence in the system".

"'The announcement does not cure the Novopay shambles that the sector has been battling for the last three years."

"The same challenges of random errors, frustratingly slow problem resolution, inaccurate personnel data, and significantly increased workload will continue," he said.

"Success will be determined by the way the new entity is managed, and more importantly, resourced to deal to these priorities."

Meanwhile, Mr Joyce earlier confirmed Talent2 will pay the Ministry of Education between $18 million and $22 million including $7m cash and other considerations such as license to use the core software by way of a settlement.

That sum was set against the $45 million the Government had paid to address the problems with the system. Overall Novopay had cost $110 million to date.

Mr Joyce said the agreement for the Government to take over should ''not necessarily be seen as failure on anyone's part any more than it had been''.

It was, he said, ''the next logical step''.

''This decision has been made in the best interests of all parties - staff administrators, schools and the Government.''

Talent2 said the "mutual agreement" settled a "flawed contractual arrangement" between itself and the Ministry of Education.

"This change allows Talent2 to better focus resources and investment on its core payroll business and broader New Zealand client base."

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the announcement today would be "cold comfort to teachers and school staff still struggling with Novopay" and Talent2 was "dropping a hot potato in the taxpayer's lap".

"Goodness knows how much more (money) will be shovelled down this black hole before the problems are finally fixed."

He questioned why Education Minister Hekia Parata signed off on the system and why it had taken Mr Joyce so long "to finally decide to take action".

"Teachers and school staff have waited long enough for Novopay to be fixed. It has taken up their valuable teaching time, as well as hours and hours of school administration. Students and parents have also paid the price for this ongoing uncertainty."

NZ First education spokeswoman Tracey Martin said Mr Joyce had "admitted defeat" in cutting Talent2 loose.

"Mr Joyce cannot fix a system that National got so wrong in the first place, and has wasted tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars on."
(Novopay no longer a 'dog' - PM NZ Herald 30 July 2014)

Steven, we'll believe it when we see it mate.

You could talk to a cluster of schools and find that a significant portion of those schools are still experiencing issues.  Personally I believe Novopay has completely stuffed up my sick leave entitlements somehow and their pay slips would frazzle the mind of a top mathematician because they are incomprehensible.  But my concerns are minor in comparison to the people who still play Novopay Lotto every second Wednesday as they check their bank accounts to see if they have been paid or not.

But this also puts fear into principals and support staff who deal with the fall out of Novopay on a daily basis.  How will this new organisation cope with the End of Year actions that Novopay has failed so badly at for the last two Decembers?

And Metiria Turei raised an excellent point on One News Tonight and on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint (sorry I couldn't get a link to the clip with Metiria on the late news but here is the one without her from One News at Six) about if National were to win the Treasury Benches on 20 September, is this move a step backwards into the 1990s to reintroduce the bulk funding of teachers' salaries and devolving pay roll responsibilities to schools? 

When Corin Dann asked John Key if it did mean bulk funding was on the horizon, John Key said no.  But teachers have heard John Key say no about a lot of things in education and then watch those things being introduced.  So teachers do not trust John Key.

Another concerning aspect is the government's adamant demand that the teacher pay roll has to be simplified.  Good luck.  It is not simple because teachers are not one size fits all.  Some teachers take on many more roles within their schools and consequently have to be adequately recompensed.  During our last primary teachers collective agreement negotiations, the MOE tried to have many of our hard fought for allowances scrapped.  We would not agree to that.  People deserved to be paid for the extra responsibilities they take on and the effort they put in.  Schools wouldn't function with out that effort and kids would miss out.

A member of Stand up for kids - protect our schools  on Facebook posted this copy of an email from Peter Hughes, the Secretary of Education, which was sent out today.

From: Peter Hughes <>
Date: 30 July 2014 12:45:15 pm NZST
Subject: Message from Peter Hughes

Good afternoon,

Earlier today the Minister Responsible for Novopay, Hon Steven Joyce, announced that school payroll services will transfer to Crown management on 17 October. I have provided a link to Minister Joyce’s press release here.

I thought it would be useful if I explained to you the reason for this change.

As you are probably aware, our plan was always to have a fully outsourced payroll system for the Education sector. The Ministry wanted to focus on its core business – supporting you to raise student achievement.

We ran into some major problems with Novopay. It meant that the Ministry had to get back involved to try and make things right and ensure you were getting the levels of service you are entitled to expect.

We have come a long way, with a steady pay period to pay period performance that is now well within the acceptable error levels defined by the Novopay technical review. However, to deliver on your expectations, we need to go further. At the moment we have a model where responsibilities and accountabilities are split across two organisations, and the Ministry is diverting time and energy away from what we should be focussing on.

From 17 October there will be a single Government-owned company solely focussed on managing school payroll services end-to-end. There will be clear accountability and expectations from the Government on ensuring staff get paid correctly on time, every time. It will be a company that is service-driven, not focussing on a commercial bottom line.

We will make sure the new company supports schools in the right way and we will focus on what we should be focussing on - raising student achievement and improving educational support to your schools.

We intend to transition Talent2 staff working on schools payroll into the new company to ensure the handover goes smoothly.

This new model will allow us to further improve payroll delivery and school support. The new arrangements will help us deliver the simpler, more user friendly service that you’ve been asking for. This change is in the best interests of the Ministry, of Talent 2 and most importantly of you and your teams.

I’ll keep you all up to date as the transition progresses. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with me directly, or with your local Director of Education.

Kind regards,


Peter Hughes | Secretary for Education | Office of the Secretary for Education

This email is soothing to the naked eye, however I still feel unease that staff from the existing organisation will still be involved.  Yes, I understand they know the system, however, they have consistently provided a not positive experience for the last two years, so you question them naturally.

And naturally the unions have something to say.

In this press release, Government Novopay buy-out too late and schools still paying, NZEI makes a valid point about the monies still owing to some schools, some of that money from 2012, and there is also the issue of the extra workload on the principal and admin support staff.

Chris Hipkins in his post Taxpayer to fork out millions for Novopay rescue points out who signed off  this dog with fleas.  He also pointed out how much money has already been wasted on Novopay and how much it was costing to buy Talent2 out of the Novopay and future running costs.  I can tell you that Chris Hipkins says that Labour is discussing the Novopay issue and believes that something has to change from the current system.  Chris has said it may mean dumping the system completely and starting again.

In the Herald this morning there is an accusation that the government is trying to appease teachers by announcing these changes now in the lead up to the election.  Novopay move slated as a diversion says "Chris Hipkins, Labour's education spokesman, said the Government was trying to divert attention from Novopay before the election campaign because "teachers will be confronting National MPs and candidates with the clear message that Novopay hasn't been fixed"."  Which John Key countered with "the education sector "will take quite a lot of confidence that effectively the Government is taking over the program and the project. They'll know it will be properly resourced and properly looked after.""

Well Mr Key, the education sector does not trust your government.  You guys made Novopay go live despite the fact their were close to 200 flaws identified that weren't remedied when the go ahead was given (see Why Hekia Parata (and Anne, Craig and Bill) should go, Novopay - or Nevapay, Bullshit John Key says, Why Steven Joyce should just man up and dump Novopay) and then the buck passing and incompetence that has followed.

Teachers also don't believe or trust you Mr Key because your government has not consulted or listened to the education sector about anything in your education policy - National Standards, Charter Schools, truancy services, special education, residential schools, Te Kotahitanga, performance pay, IES roles, class sizes, professional development/Advisory Services..... the list goes on.

Mr Key says Novopay is not so much of a dog anymore, but teachers, principals and support staff will be more reserved.  While pleased that Talent2 will be taken out of the equation somewhat, we are wary.  Quite frankly, teachers will be watching from October to see if this new crown enterprise to take on Novopay will meet the standard or not.  I'll report back later in the year.

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