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Novopay approved despite obvious issues

Friday 1 Feb 2013 3:53 p.m.

Bill English, Hekia Parata and Craig Foss

Bill English, Hekia Parata and Craig Foss

The three ministers who signed off on the troubled Novopay system are under fire for ignoring red flags about problems that lay ahead.

Around 8,000 teachers have been affected to the tune of $12 million.

New documents today show Ministers Hekia Parata, Bill English and Craig Foss approved the payroll system rollout – despite warnings about 147 software errors.

Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty says it beggars belief.

“You’d think that with the number of mistakes that were identified in the tests, that some minister would actually stop and go, ‘I’m not sure if this is gonna work. Do these people actually have the capacity to do the job?’.”

The documents also catalogue a long history of problems with novopay. Two years ago provider Talent2 had a request for more Government funding turned down.

The documents were released at the request of Steven Joyce, the newly-appointed minister responsible for Novopay who launched an inquiry into the beleaguered payroll system yesterday.

Novopay launched in August last year as an all-digital replacement to the paper-oriented Datacom system.

It was meant to go live in May 2010 but numerous target and milestone failures by Talent2 delayed the introduction by more than two years.

When the system finally went live it was plagued with problems – and the total number of teachers who have been overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all stands at more than 8000.

Currently, the ministry owes teachers and education staff nearly $12 million in failed payments.

During the delays, ministry staff became increasingly frustrated at Talent2’s failure to get Novopay working.

In December 2011, the ministry refused to give Talent2 more money or de-scope the programme.

“I acknowledge that Talent2 has found it more difficult and expensive to deliver on its contractual commitments than originally estimated,” a letter from the ministry to Talent2 says.

“But this does not mean the ministry must accept a higher price or a reduced scope.

“I am very disappointed that Talent2 has failed to meet this milestone.”

The ministry put Talent2 “on notice” after they failed to meet four additional milestones and for the headache it had caused the ministry. The threat was later retracted.

When the ministry probed Talent2 about the failings, they received the answer:

“The Novopay project team had underestimated the complexity of the payroll requirements. Tasks took longer than originally anticipated.”

Other issues cited by the ministry included “significant operational, reputational and cost consequences of Talent2’s failure”.

When the Novopay system was finally tested three months before it went live, 107 software defects or “bugs” were discovered in the system.

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