Singing from Novo­pay song­book

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Rarely have so many sung from the same song­book over as big a fi­asco.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill English con­ceded last week that ‘‘in hind­sight’’ things might have been done dif­fer­ently with the Novo­pay sys­tem.

Within min­utes, As­so­ciate Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Craig Foss said that ‘‘with the ben­e­fit of hind- sight’’ the Novo­pay sys­tem could be crit­i­cised, but that he had acted on the best ad­vice avail­able.

Al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hekia Parata told re­porters that ‘‘hind­sight is a won­der­ful thing’’, but that she, too, had acted on the best ad­vice avail­able.

Had th­ese three min­is­ters who signed off the Novo­pay deal agreed among them­selves that self-preser­va­tion re­quired them to (a) blame their crit­ics for be­ing wise only af­ter the fact and (b) blame their of­fi­cials for al­legedly mis­lead­ing them? With hind­sight, it cer­tainly looked that way.

The cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem is that their strat­egy con­tained al­most as many flaws as the Novo­pay sys­tem it­self.

Pa­pers re­leased last week un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act in­di­cated that far from be­ing mind­less boost­ers of the Novo­pay sys­tem, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials had en­gaged in a twoyear bat­tle with Tal­ent 2 (the Novo­pay providers) and had al­most scrapped the sys­tem en­tirely four months be­fore it went live last Au­gust.

In June 2012, the min­istry pro­duced an in­ter­nal report list­ing 147 soft­ware de­fects and iden­ti­fy­ing nearly 6000 er­rors with the sys­tem. Such were the con­cerns that of­fi­cials be­gan dis­cus­sions with Dat­a­com, the pre­vi­ous pay sys­tem provider, but those talks never came – or were never al­lowed to come – to fruition.

As the dead­line loomed, ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary at the time,Les­ley Long­stone, and her deputy Anne Jack­son, re­port­edly ad­vised Tal­ent 2 that four es­sen­tial dead- lines had not been met by the com­pany, thereby al­legedly putting Tal­ent 2 in breach of its con­tract.

In sum, it is hard to see how that pa­per trail sup­ports an ar­gu­ment that Cab­i­net Min­is­ters were be­ing mis­led by wildly en­thu­si­as­tic of­fi­cials.

It looks more like the of­fi­cials were ul­ti­mately told by their min­is­ters to go away and make the sys­tem work, re­gard­less.

Now, those of­fi­cials are be­ing cast as scape­goats.

It is easy to see why Parata’s re­cent ‘‘karma’’ joke went down so badly in ed­u­ca­tion cir­cles.

Hav­ing flagged the prob­lems be­fore­hand and striven af­ter­wards to make Novo­pay work, the of­fi­cials found their own pay pack­ets were go­ing hay­wire.

Rather than sym­pa­thise, Parata chose to pub­licly ex­press her sat­is­fac­tion at their plight.

Af­ter all, had they car­ried out their prime duty – ie, to save her from po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment? Plainly not. (Yet again, Parata’s in­ad­e­qua­cies as a leader and com­mu­ni­ca­tor have been self­ex­posed.)

Iron­i­cally, by the end of the week, the government had re­port­edly restarted dis­cus­sions with Dat­a­com, ap­par­ently to sort out the soft­ware faults in Tal­ent 2’s sys­tem.

As of early Jan­uary, teach­ers were owed nearly $12 mil­lion by Novo­pay.

Luck­ily for the government, all this got over­shad­owed last week by the cov­er­age af­forded to the death of some­one who could com­mu­ni­cate with the pub­lic: Sir Paul Holmes.

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