Schools must track down staff members overpaid thousands of
dollars by the Novopay payroll system.
Teachers overpaid large sums by Novopay can make far smaller
fortnightly repayments, depending on circumstances.
One secondary school is chasing casual staff for $24,000
overpaid from its budget, with one former teacher
uncontactable in Australia.
Figures released this week showed more than 6000 people have
been flagged to the ministry as overpaid.
Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh
said it was an outrage that schools were held responsible for
retrieving some of that money.
His own school, Rotorua's John Paul College, was chasing
seven casual staff members for nearly $24,000 overpaid from
its operation grant money.
"One of the teachers is now living in Australia, and we're
having difficulty locating that person ... that could be very
problematic getting the money back."
Yesterday, the ministry said it was treating such concerns as
a "real priority", and would offer support to schools under
"We will support them while the debt is being recovered," a
The ministry would handle collection of overpayments made
from its staffing entitlement fund, used to pay the majority
The Herald understands some teachers have paid back previous
overpayments at as little as $50 a fortnight, but the
spokeswoman would not reveal the minimum repayment rate.
"We always try to find an appropriate balance between an
individual's ability to pay and the requirement to collect
public money that has been paid in error as quickly as
Nationally 581 people have been paid on behalf of schools
they have not worked at, and $560,000 has been advanced by
schools themselves to cover the mistakes.
Of the potential overpayments, 394 have been confirmed so
far. These total $541,779 - an average overpayment of $1375 -
with $288,101 yet to be recovered.
Nearly 7900 people have been underpaid or not paid at all,
causing what principals say is an unacceptable level of
stress for staff.
Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said the real
problem was much larger than the reported cases.
Callers to Novopay's service centre were waiting up to an
hour and a half, with 15,000 calls going unanswered or being
"I have never in all my born days seen a dog's breakfast like
Novopay. Every fortnight brings new problems.
"I don't know how they are going to balance it, I just don't
know," he said. "And now you've got the issue of chasing back
Mr Harding said many teachers would be unaware of any
overpayments, and it could take them some time to return the
"If you have been overpaid $52 a fortnight for the past six
months, and suddenly they contact you ... you are not going
to come up with $700 - most people would find that difficult.
"And I don't believe the ministry, or anyone else, is in a
position to say, 'Like hell - you'll pay it back in one
The Principals' Federation has written to the Auditor-General
asking for an urgent review of Novopay.
The ministry has said work was under way on the planned
review's terms of reference.
It said 61,000 school staff were paid successfully this week,
with only a small number of issues.
Mr Harding and Mr Walsh said the payroll system's problems
appeared to be snowballing and their information indicated
problems would continue.
Mr Walsh said that when the school year resumed he would ask
secondary principals whether they would support a vote of no
confidence in Novopay. He expected such a vote would be
- By Nicholas Jones of the New Zealand Herald