My $2 Shop Can Opener

Hello all. The sore throat is back today. I have no voice so my class has to miss out. Today my fingers can be my voice…

I want to tell you about my can opener – the can opener I bought from the $2 Shop near our house. It used to be a great can opener. We would use it to open baked beans, spaghetti, tins of fruit, tins of tuna, pasta sauce – the list goes on and on. I remember the day we got it. I brought it home and put it on the edge of the tin and it sliced clean through, then after a few turns the tin was open and I was shovelling cold baked beans into my mouth.

After a short time things started to go wrong. The cutty bit didn’t slice into the tin as cleanly. The handle became stiff and hard to use. The teeth of the two cogs became worn and ended up not meeting. Ultimately the can opener ended up being a bottle opener thanks to the addition of a bottle opener on the end. In the end it failed in its single task of opening cans. Eventually I had to go to Mitre 10 Mega in Mount Wellington and spend $10 on a new and sturdier can opener.

You can probably guess where this metaphor is heading… straight to the Talent2 Dollar Shop.

I was lying in bed last night trying to will my sore throat away so I could get some rest and things began to trouble me. Mostly my thoughts centred around it was the inability of some public servants and ministers to effectively spend OUR money when purchasing “brand new IT solutions for the 21st century.”

I believe there’s two things in play here. Firstly, the current National-led “coalition” (Nats+5) has a main reason for being: slashing government spending. When a government is slashing spending, and they are choosing to spend money on new things – like rail carriages or IT things – those purchasing the new stuff will go for the $2 Shop option every time. Bill English will tell you that any savings is good savings. Saving money will get us back to surplus. So the government decided to choose Talent2 as tenders for the Novopay system. Because it was the cheapest. It was the $2 Shop option.

The problem with stuff that is cheap – generally it breaks quicker. Like my can opener. If I’d gone for the more expensive option at the start then I wouldn’t have wasted months of consternation trying to get a rusting piece of junk to open my tinned fruit salad. Ultimately I ended up having to buy two tin openers, ending up with the more expensive option anyway. My original decision was financially based, it was flawed and I now accept that. I’ve moved on and I’ve tendered out my tin opening to a more robust brand. I should have just gone for the dearer one in the first place.

The other problem the government and the public sector have is the lack of expertise when it comes to matters of IT. I doubt whether the decision to accept the Talent2 tender would have been made by someone who was able to look at their programming thoroughly. I’m sure Lesley Longstone is a very capable manager, but I doubt she spends her time writing software or analysing software. She, and others in her ministry, have to rely on the expertise of others. Consultants. $1500 an hour consultants. Mind you, even after being told that a trial was needed, Craig “I Know What I’m Doing” Foss ticked off on the system to go full steam ahead. Without a trial.

Why can’t the government have a dedicated team of IT people on retainer. People who can go around the various ministries and government departments advising them and making sure they don’t accept, for example, public kiosks that are an open book to the lives of all our beneficiaries?

The Novopay debacle will end up costing the government far more money than they originally planned to save by going to the Talent2 Dollar Shop. Guaranteed. If they’d just gone to the Mitre 10 of payroll operators in the first place, none of this would be happening.

Again I hope you all get paid properly in the lead up to Christmas. Be thankful that all the banks are offering everyone free Novodrafts to deal with any fees that incur because of this ongoing nonsense.

Mr B

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