Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Novopay fiasco

The Novopay fiasco drags on and on. And for once, we are on the side of NZEI; it is simply unacceptable for so many teachers to have had their pays stuffed up for an extended period. The Novopay providers, Talent2 must fix the mess.

There has been criticism that the contract for Novopay was awarded to an Australian company rather than to a New Zealand provider. There will be time to debate the rights and wrongs of that decision once Novopay is sorted once and for all. 

But we were alerted to this article this afternoon by a reader. It's a story from Computerworld last week and this may surprise you as it did us (the emphasis is ours):

The Ministry of Education will end up spending more than $100 million on the troubled Novopay pay system for teachers.
A ministry contract register shows that the contract with Talent 2 for Novopay extends to September 2015 and is worth $80 million.

But in response to questions from
Computerworld, the ministry says that the contract register doesn’t take account of the delay to the implementation of Novopay and the resulting contract variations.
“The contract value of $80 million covers the Talent 2 implementation costs and six years of operation from go live,” the ministry says.

According to the ministry the total Novopay costs are:

  • Development and implementation - $29.4 million;
  • Long-run cost - $12.5 million a year until 2018.
Following a subsequent enquiry by Computerworld, the ministry now confirms the total cost will be $105 million over eight years.
The original contract was signed in September 2008, but the project was delayed for two years while additional testing was done.
Talent 2 has also earned around $500,000 by providing a programme manager, systems administrator, and business analyst, according to the contract register.

New Zealand went to the polls in November 2008, and elected a National government. So yes Dear Readers; the contract with Talent2 was signed BEFORE the 2008 General Election, at a time when the Hon Chris Carter was Minister of Education.

Oddly, neither Labour nor NZEI has bothered to mention that salient fact. We wonder why. Not only did Labour leave us with a Decade of Deficits to cope with, but they commissioned a dud payroll system for the nation's teachers.

Thanks a bunch Helen, Michael and Chris, all of whom have now of course gone on to high-paying gigs elsewhere. Thanks a bunch.


Rico said...

There is nothing very complex about basic payroll programming - the interesting stuff is controlling user input (garbage in = garbage out). Computers process data that humans have entered - hence how many of the problems being encountered are being caused by incompetent data entry (whether by accident or by design), as opposed to poor coding?

Having been both programmer & systems designer for more years than I care to remember, the nut behind the keyboard is the source of most disasters. Just thinking....

Anonymous said...

@ Rico

You are correct to an extent but there should have been an automatic transition of 'stable' information from one system to the other without the need for reentering info eg names, school, pay grades and responsibility levels that had had no change. It is this that is also going wrong, not just ones where changes were taking place (ie promotions, relief work). This indicates an underlying programming problem.

That said, the old Datacom system was not flawless, just that it had years of practice in dealing with problems and did not have the big bang change.


Tony Blake said...

Parata must go!

Neverpay said...

Labour baaaaaaaaad.
National blaaaaaameless.

Yeah, right.

PM of NZ said...

Maybe if school administrators had spent less time attacking National Standards and concentrated on things that really matter. Like a new pay system.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Well spotted IV2.

Looks like you have attracted a troll here!

Let me help him/her/it.

Labour baaaaad

Labour ALWAYS baaaaaaaaaaaaad.

bsprout said...

Lets get some facts into this discussion. The old pay system was limited and we needed to have a more modern system. Novapay may actually be a good system but schools have found that the data and information that should have been in the system when it started operating wasn't there. Talent2 was relying on the Education Ministry to provide that information according to a spokesperson who was interviewed on National Radio.

There can be two scenarios, the first being that the Ministry did provide the correct information and Novapay didn't enter it and the second being that the Ministry did not provide all the necessary information (I think that they had four years to set it up). There may be a combination of the two.

Teachers have found that their employment history wasn't transferred from the old system and they are being refused entitlements like sick leave. Experienced teachers returning to work after time off (maternity leave etc) are being recorded as new teachers and are being paid at the beginning rate.

Given that the National led Government cut $25 million from the Ministry's operating budget, refused to consult with the profession on other important education changes and employed a CEO from the UK who is unfamiliar with our system, this outcome could be predicted.

Just remember we had the appallingly planned housing New Zealand call centre implementation, the Work and Income computer debacle and the messes at ACC. This is just another outcome related to the Government's arbitrary sacking of around 4,000 state servants.

I feel especially sorry for Christchurch teachers because not only are they suffering from the appalling handling of their schooling plan, the ongoing stress of the earthquakes and the Ministry's clawback offer in pay negotiations but they also have the Novapay debacle.

For you to suggest that our troubles are the fault of Labour for signing up a dud provider is ignoring Novapay's good track record elsewhere and the fact it is the implementation that is at fault. This government has stuffed up the implementation of just about everything it has tried to impose on education and this is just another example. Neither Hekia Parata or Craig Foss have given any indication when questioned that they actually understand what they or their Ministry is doing.

Keeping Stock said...

We have an underlying philosophy in our business bsprout; to under-promise and over-deliver. It would seem that the Novopay provider (as computer companies are apt to do) did the complete opposite.

But you cannot escape the fact that the decision to walk awayfrom the MoE's long-time payroll provider and develop a new system was taken BEFORE Labour left office in 2008.

Just as the incoming government had to deal with the Decade of Deficits unvieled at Prefu 2008; DPF reported it this was from the Treasury Prefu lock-up on 6 October 2008:

The PREFU is far worse than anyone could imagine. Thank God St Ruth and National changed the law in 1994 to force the Government to open the books up before an election – otherwise it would be a repeat of the last time a Labour Government left office – a fiscal mess for the incoming Government.

The Secretary of the Treasury, John Whitehead, did a presentation before we got the books. The room was silent as he wound out the bad news. The problem isn’t our financial markets – they are much better structured than in the US. It is the flow on effects of lower GDP growth and increased spending. So we don’t have a crisis, but we do have a very bleak fiscal situation.

The Crown accounts are going into deficit, and will remain in deficit until 2018 – yes – a decade of deficits on the medium term projections. The deficit is forecast to be $31 million this year and up to $3.2 billion in 2012/13 – returning to surplus only in 2017/18. This is the OBEGAL excluding Super Fund Revenue.

Dr Cullen and Helen Clark are going to be very red faced over debt. Do you recall how they attacked National’s plan to borrow 2% more of GDP for infrastructure as an economic calamity and reckless as it would push debt up to 22% of GDP – 2% in excess of Dr Cullen’s ceiling of 20%

Debt is forecast to peak at 30.1%!!! It will be 24.3% by 2012/13 and 30.1% by 2018/19. After wailing about how the world would end if debt went to 22% of GDP, Dr Cullen is leaving NZ with a forecast rise to 30%.

The cash deficit next year is now forecast to be $6 billion and over five years a cash deficit of 31.7 billion.

Incidentally PREFU was done around five weeks ago so doesn’t take account of the very latest in the US such as the bailout. They do not expect this to change PREFU significantly but it does increase the risk of a sharp slowdown.

Labour made a series of enduring decisions it its last year or so in office; the Electoral Finance Act, a punitive ETS, a tanking economy and a pantry which Cullen boasted about leaving bare, and now this.

Sure, the Novopay implementation seems to have been poorly managed (something I acknowledged at the beginning of the post), but at the end of the day, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and software providers are renowned for demonstrating smoke and mirrors solutions which under-deliver. The NZEI should at least acknowledge that the MoE was under the leadership of Chris Carter when this debacle was set in motion.

Trillium Shue said...

KS, you seem unable to absorb the new information that bsprout has provided for you. Your 'can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear' comment shows you clinging to the belief that the Novapay is poor. Bsprout described the real issue, in detail, but you desperately cling to your Labour baaaaaad bleat and cannot accept that the present situation can be and should be sheeted to those involved right now. Instead, you look back, unable to bear the reality of yet another example of National's incompetence. Still, we should expect nothing less from you. There are so many stains and messes on this Governments 'carpet' right now, that it makes it look as though there's a drunken party in progress and the party goers are slobs.

Keeping Stock said...

On the contrary Trillium; I have been closely involved in several large and significant IT implementations in my working life, and I am only too aware that the finished product seldom performs as well as what is demonstrated when responses to RFP's are evaluated.

Nor an I exempting the government or the MoE from blame; the Novopay rollout has been badly handled. The whole point of my post yesterday was to note the irony of the NZEI's silence as to who first signed off the project.

Trillium Shue said...

Thanks a bunch, Parata and thanks a bigger bunch Longstone (what the hell is that idiot woman doing here? Honestly, can anyone tell me why qe imported such an incompetent woman from the UK and gave her such influence over our education system? Are we mad? She claimed our education system was 'not world-class', a statement that is patently untrue. She's an idiot!

Bunk said...

An additional scenario: Perhaps the Labour govt and their overstaffed and ministry didnt do complete and appropriate due diligence through the RFP process. Or the RFP was so poorly prescribed in 2008 that the project was doomed to failure? The situation with holiday pay and experienced teachers returning, BSProut, are fundamental faults in the payroll system that a graduate IT analyst would pick up - why was this not picked up from the start? why was Talent2 chosen given these flaws? Thanks to the 2008 incompetence this appears to be doomed from the start (if you want to take an ocean liner to Alaska you don't point its nose towards Thailand when you set off). I hope that the 2008 team wrote plenty of contingency clawbacks into the contract............

bsprout said...

I like your business philosophy ("Under promise and over deliver"), KS, from what you claim you sound like a good employer and an honest businessman. However you would have to accept that the National party does not share your philosophy. Whether it be the economy, job creation, Housing New Zealand, ACC, environmental protection, supporting small business and National Standards, this government has promised much and under delivered almost every time. Much that they have initiated has been forced upon different sectors against professional advice and when it fails they blame those who had to implement the policy in with greatly limited staffing and without a proper implementation plan. This happened with National Standards and it probably happened elsewhere. They refused to trial the Standards and then sent facilitators out to provide professional development at the same time that they were being written. Teachers who were following the constant changes on the website were often more knowledgeable than the facilitators. The Christchurch plan and the motorway developments have occurred in the same way, the ideological plan is constructed and then the research and cost/benefit analysis is done afterwards. This is appalling process and really bad governance.

Peter P. said...

"Over-promise, under-deliver - Key"

Good call, bsprout. It's the modus operandi that's typified this Government. That and "deny, deny, deny when challenged." That's the second string to National's bow.