Ministry still 'confident' despite new Novopay woes
First Novopay wasn't paying teachers enough – but now, like some crazed Santa, it's delivering sackloads of money that isn't theirs at all.
Today was their final pay before Christmas, and some schools and staff say they've got up to 100 times more holiday pay than they were entitled to.
And it's money that really has been deducted from school bank accounts – leaving principals furious, and thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Oropi School is a small school with a small staff, and is one of those with a very big overpayment problem. Support staff who no longer work at Oropi have received thousands of dollars in holiday pay they're not entitled to.
Just $530 in one case, but $2,800 in another and a whopping $8,600 in a third.
Oropi principal Andrew King says the payments are completely out of proportion.
“The $8000 payment is a support staff member who was employed for three hours in term one, and the other support staff member has done seven hours all year.”
All up, $12,000 in overpayments has come out of the school bank accounts, leaving it almost cleaned out.
At another school, there are another lot of overpayments. Waikanae Primary's 14 support staff all received holiday pays of over $2,500 – around 100 times more than was owed to them.
Principal Bevan Campbell says it’s bewildering.
“When you look at the staffing and usage report you can't actually work out how they've come to that figure – it doesn't look sensible in any way, shape or form, it's just a very big number.”
But where the schools see failure, the ministry sees increasing success – saying things are improving and it will work with schools to get the money back.
“There is a standard process to contact the person, inform them of what the overpayment is and negotiate repayment, and it can take up to 49 days,” says Ministry of Education chief information officer Leanne Gibson.
But at Rongatai College, principal Kevin Carter says that's little comfort when he'll be spending his summer break sorting out overpayments of $30,000.
“Maybe the minister needs to take a harsh look at herself while she's on her six weeks' holiday that we won't be having because we're having to sort out the Novopay bungle,” he says.
Mr Carter describes Novopay as "an absolute debacle", but the ministry is standing by the plagued payroll system.
“I am confident in the Novapay system – we are nine pay cycles in now, we've paid 700,000 people, we've cleared the backlog of transactions that were there and we have a work plan in place to address any new issues,” says Ms Gibson.
The ministry's confidence in Novopay is not shared by the Principal's Federation. Its president has written to the Auditor-General and the Prime Minister, asking for an independent inquiry into Novopay. The federation says it now feels Novopay can't be fixed and it's time for ‘Plan B’ – if the ministry has one.