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Govt says it will fix Novopay first, worry about who pays for it later

Friday 01 Feb 2013 10:16a.m.

'Nobody comes out looking tidy' - Joyce

By 3 News online staff

The minister charged with fixing Novopay says the Government must persist with the flawed system.

Steven Joyce admits sorting it out could cost millions and take months, but getting rid of it completely would be very difficult.

He has already ordered an inquiry, a review, a contingency plan and a strategy to “accelerate software stabilisation”.

But speaking to Firstline, Mr Joyce says it’s yet to be decided who will end up paying to fix the system.

“The taxpayer’s not going to fund it – that’s not a fair characterisation,” he says. “The taxpayer’s going to step up in the short-term, and I’ve said we’re not going to have the big arguments now about who should pay what and who’s fault is what.

“We’ll get on with fixing it, we’ll agree the money [that’s needed for it to be] fixed, and then we’ll sit down and work out who pays what.”

Despite Novopay’s problems, Mr Joyce says it would be very difficult to go back to the old system.

“Since the September quarter last year, a huge amount of data [has been] added to the new system, and if you went back to the old system you’d have to go in and re-enter all that data all over again and re-check all that data all over again.”

Mr Joyce admits the Government allowed the system to go live despite knowing it wasn't working properly, but says no-one expected the system’s bugs to be as serious as they turned out to be.

“Yes there were bugs, but actually in most software projects when they start there are known bugs with the project because the reality is never [is] everything perfect on the way in, that’s the thing with IT.

“All the advice from a number of agencies, and nobody comes out of this looking tidy, all the advice was ‘you should go ahead with it’.”

Mr Joyce says the option of getting rid of Novopay altogether remains on the table as a contingency plan.

Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) president Robin Duff says that while Mr Joyce’s “charm offensive” has been “pretty impressive”, he’s concerned that little has actually been done to improve the situation for teachers.

“Of course it hasn’t done a single thing really for improving or perfecting the system, which is long overdue,” says Mr Duff.

He applauds Mr Joyce’s confirmation that an inquiry is getting underway, and that scrapping the system altogether remains a last option, but warns that the worst may be yet to come for teachers. The first pay round of the year is one of the most complicated.

“With, at the same time, an indication that we’re going to have the worst, probably the worst, payroll delivery in the next one – which is sometime next week – there is very little for the Government, or even the minister to be relaxed about.”

Mr Duff says it’s “outrageous” that the system was approved when ministers were aware that it had bugs.

“The fact that ministers have that responsibility through the advice from their respective ministries, to make sure it is perfect, means that what has happened is in itself totally unacceptable. Ministers are simply not doing their job.”  

Watch the video for the full interviews.

3 News

 
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