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PQ 8. Novopay, Minister—Statements

8. Novopay, Minister—Statements

[Sitting date: 31 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:8. Text is subject to correction.]

8. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister responsible for Novopay : Does he stand by his statement from over 16 months ago with regard to Novopay “I want to see within three months a situation where, as much as possible, workloads from administrators are back to where they were before this thing started”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister responsible for Novopay): Yes, I do. I appreciate the member might have missed it, given that he has asked me only two or three questions during that time of the 2,821 questions—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : But I am pleased to advise him that within 3 months of making that statement the error rate, or the incidence of people overpaid, underpaid, or not paid, had fallen to less than 0.5 percent, as recommended by the ministerial inquiry. It has remained that way for all but three start-of-year pay periods this year. That is a total of 30 of the last 33 pay periods. For example, in relation to the most recent pay period, pay period 8, a total of 14 staff were notified as not paid, 15 underpaid, and 11 overpaid. For the benefit of the member, that is 40 out of 9,953 staff.

Chris Hipkins : Is he satisfied that the workload for school administrators is now back to where it was before Novopay was implemented; if so, what evidence does he have to demonstrate that that is actually the case?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : For the majority of administrators the workload is back, as I said, as much as possible to where it was before this thing started. There are some administrators who are still finding challenges. The ministry has provided payroll advisers to those people to assist them with the issues they have.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to you and to the Minister, because I know the noise was coming from my side of the House. I could not hear the Minister’s answer, and I cannot ask a supplementary question if I could not hear what he was actually saying.

Mr SPEAKER : I am going to ask the Minister if he would repeat his answer, because I was having trouble hearing it as well.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : As I said, most administrators will find their workload back to approximately where it was when this thing started. There are some who are still having challenges, I agree. They are being assisted by dedicated payroll advisers employed by the Ministry of Education.

Chris Hipkins : Has he started working on alternatives to Novopay in the event that the ongoing problems with Novopay cannot be resolved; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not sure that the member should recommend that as the member who actually recommended to the previous Minister to start the Novopay process in the first place. He will forgive me if I do not take his advice on this occasion, because I am sure the former Labour Minister wished he had not taken his advice on the earlier occasion.

Chris Hipkins : Did the Ministers responsible receive advice prior to signing off Novopay’s implementation that there were 147 known software defects with the system and that “the risk of failure is high and the consequences of failure serious” ; if so, why, after 2 years of this debacle, is he refusing to explore alternatives to sticking with a payroll system he himself has described as “a dog with fleas”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am sorry the member does not understand this, but when 90,913 staff are being paid correctly and 40 are not, in a pay period—

Andrew Little : Answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : —I am answering the question; hold your fire—the simple reality of it is that it would make no sense to put the staff through what Mr Hipkins now proposes they be put through. But, then, his advice does not surprise me because it was he who was advising the previous Minister to throw out the previous pay system, and put Novopay in, in the first place.

Chris Hipkins : Why should the taxpayer have confidence that his decision to take complete control of Novopay will produce better outcomes and provide better value for money given that buried within the agreement he has committed to making ongoing payments to Talent2 of over $9 million for a system that does not work?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Dear, oh dear! This is another example of why it would have been a good idea to have a better ministerial adviser back in 2008 than this one. The member seems to be suggesting that the solution to Novopay now is to say that we should not pay for any maintenance or any services over the next 6 years of its use to try to prove that that would be a good idea, and that Talent2 would still look after the programme on that basis. This member was out of his depth in 2008 and he is out of his depth now.

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