Novopay ‘nightmare’ slowly fading
For nearly two years Novopay has caused headaches for schools nationwide. Rose Cawley and Jenny Ling discover central Auckland schools are still struggling with the payroll programme.
Laborious, time consuming and a nightmare.
They’re not words used to describe getting a Russian visa or organising a wedding in winter.
It’s how Auckland principals describe Novopay, a controversial $182 million web-based payroll system implemented in 2012 which has been plagued by ongoing problems.
But it’s getting better – very slowly.
Western Springs College’s finance officer Anne Millan says Novopay can still be a ‘‘nightmare’’ at times.
‘‘It is basically just a matter of taking a deep breath, plodding through it and hoping that nobody wants anything changed on their pay,’’ she says.
‘‘The moment you change things on people’s pay you end up with problems.’’
But as the troubles start to slowly abate the vision and potential of Novopay is becoming clearer, she says.
‘‘I can see that once they fix the programme and get online working well it will be the kind of pay package that I’d like to deal with.’’
Auckland Girls’ Grammar administration manager Ainsley Perry says she spends as much time on payroll as she did before Novopay.
‘‘What we are getting now are not fundamental system errors, they are errors in the way the data is entered on their end. It can take two or three goes to get things right – when one problem is fixed, another one is created.’’
Novopay processes the pay of 110,000 teaching and support staff at 2457 schools.
The Ministry of Education purchased the system at a cost of $182 million over 10 years.
In the first pay round, 5000 Kiwi school staff were underpaid and 15 were not paid at all.
Ponsonby Primary School principal Anne Malcolm says the biggest glitch this year has been the delay Novopay created with getting the school’s audited accounts to the Ministry of Education.
It held her up for nearly two months.
‘‘We couldn’t get signed off by our auditors because we were waiting for our staffing usage to be confirmed by Novopay.’’ Things are improving, she says. ‘‘It slowly gets better. We don’t have the number of errors we were having but we need no errors in pay – if that can be done.’’
Waterview Primary School principal Brett Skeen says his school is ‘‘one of the lucky ones’’.
‘‘Being a smaller school we don’t have too many problems. It seems the bigger the school the more problems you have with Novopay.’’
He says about three or four errors have crept in over the last six months.
‘‘From our point of view it is functioning quite well. A lot of the issues seem to have been ironed out. There are still a few though.’’
So far it has cost about $30 million to fix Novopay.
Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins says almost 2000 schools still face problems with it.
‘‘Novopay still has more than $9.3 million in debts to recover and ongoing errors are creating hundreds of thousands of dollars in new debt,’’ he says.
Minister responsible for Novopay Steven Joyce says work is continuing to further improve its delivery.
New Zealand Educational Institute spokesman Andrew Cassidy says money isn’t the only issue.
‘‘What schools are telling us is that they’re still spending an inordinate amount of time ensuring the pay is accurate,’’ he says.
Western Springs College finance officer Anne Millan
Ponsonby Primary School principal Anne Malcolm
Waterview Primary School principal Brett Skeen
Auckland Girls’ Grammar admin manager Ainsley Perry