Help sought for Novopay users

The New Zealand Government is still trying to fix a school payroll system delivered two years late and at least NZ$24 million over budget.

Payroll administrators at New Zealand schools will receive more support in using the deeply troubled Novopay system from next February.

This Ministry of Education is seeking contractors to provide payroll support services to schools nationwide as part of the Novopay Remediation Programme (NRP), implemented to get the system working effectively.

The services aim to improve school payroll administrators’ knowledge, understanding and confidence in using Novopay.

Novopay is a large payroll transition involving a shift from a traditional managed service provided by Datacom to an online portal, delivered by Australian company Talent2. It was built to service over 2500 schools and the 110,000 people working in them.

The project dates back to at least to 1999. Design and planning began in 2005 and a contract was signed in 2008 with an original go-live date of September 2010.

In an early sign of problems, the strategy to shift from what was seen as a creaky outsourced legacy system morphed several times before a contract was signed and after.

The system eventually went live, disastrously, in September 2012, with teachers and school staff right across New Zealand either not being paid or being paid incorrectly.

After weeks of frustrating payoll failures and intense media scrutiny, Government troubleshooter and cabinet minister Steven Joyce was charged with fixing the issues and the NRP was launched.

Payroll inaccuracies have steadily diminished over the last year but the error rate and user frustration remain too high.

A ministerial enquiry (PDF) in June revealed the project was NZ$23.9 million over budget at a total cost of NZ$56.8 million.

The support services include a lot of training, both on the use of Novopay and its processes and on the use of IT systems in general.

They cover encouraging the use of Novopay Online, improving understanding of payroll rules and processing through facilitated training, assisting payroll administrators in their use of IT, and developing and fostering school community networks to form school cluster groups that can support and help each other work through payroll issues.

A tender document says a trial of a similar service in the South Island has generated “overwhelming positive feedback” showing the support is well received.

Supplier briefings commence on 27 November and the tender closes on 17 December.