Open Letter to School Staff (re: Novopay)

I got an email at work today. It was from Acting Secretary of Education Peter Hughes. It goes as follows:

OPEN LETTER TO  SCHOOL STAFF(No actual names there, so not really that personalised).

4 June 2013 (Current!)

I am writing to let you know that the Minister responsible for Novopay, Hon Steven Joyce, has today released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay (Starting off with a statement of fact… good one! I am in dispute of the Hon title).

I want to let you know that as Chief Executive of the Ministry of Education, I accept in full all of the findings and recommendations of the Inquiry as they relate to the Ministry (Boffins believed Talent2 sales pitch and subsequent Talent2 cover-up sales pitches. Over-belief then passed on to ministers as advice to GO GO GO!).  I am acting on the issues identified in the report (Good).

I want to personally apologise to you for the stress, anxiety and inconvenience caused by the transition to Novopay. So many of you have gone the extra mile to help resolve the problems and I am hugely grateful for your professionalism and all the effort involved (Um… thanks? Personally I just didn’t get some days pay, more days pay and no superannuation for the first quarter of this year. Technically I never did anything).

In particular, I want to acknowledge those of you with payroll responsibilities. Thank you for your commitment and perseverance.  I am very grateful (I’m don’t have anything else to add here. Payroll people have been, to quote John Campbell here, marvelous over the last 10 months).

My focus since coming to the Ministry has been to work hard to fix the issues around Novopay, and this remains a top personal priority for me. I want to see the current backlog of issues cleared as soon as possible, as well as deliver further improvements to the system’s usability and stability.  We will work hard to get this right for you and your colleagues (Maybe you could fix some of the other issues. Just sayin’).


Best wishes and thank you.

Peter Hughes

Acting Secretary for Education

So that’s that. An apology. From a bureaucrat. No apology from Craig Foss, Hekia Parata, Stephen Joyce or the original team from the Labour Party who first dipped their toes into the poison pool of Novopay.

Nothing. Zip.

After all, they were only taking advice. They could only act on the advice they were given.

For goodness sake. Grow some cajones. Man up. Yes you can only go on the advice your officials give you but really. I mean, REALLY!!!?!

To sign of on something before it was given a proper trial is incompetent at best, negligent at worst. It is lazy politicking to blame your officials.

Ministers from both Labour and National were hypnotised by the former actor who runs Talent2 into buying a dog. Coupled to that was the decision to run with something that had HARDLY BEEN TESTED.

You made that decision. You. Not your boffins. You.

That is all.

Mr B.


You Stop Blogging for One Month….

Hi everyone!

It’s been a crazy few weeks for me since Christmas. Possibly only matched by the endorsement of Hekia as our “Great Communicator”. Or maybe the appointment of Stephen “You Break It, I’ll Fix It” Joyce to oversee the Novopay madness.

In any case, if you believe all is well in the education sector because the government appears to be “on to it” then think again oh ye of too much faith.

Let us first dig our tendrils into Mrs Parata who popped up the other day somewhere north of Christchurch clutching a spade and announcing, with great communicatory skills, that the government would be investing millions into Christchurch schools. Even building a new one!

When asked about Novopay said it was being dealt with and trotted out the pre-agreed government line of, “hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

As I, and a few others, have pointed out on twitter recently, foresight is slightly better. The main issue with Novopay along with many other vast government IT initiatives is that the people signing off on them have to rely so much on the “advice” of officials. The only thing they really know about information technology is checking their emails and sending their sister an animated birthday e-card with dancing kittens.

Mind you, if we stopped politicians from signing off on anything they didn’t know anything about then Bill English would have only ever been the Minister for Farming and Rural Voices with special responsibilities for Hiding His Income Stream in a Trust So He Doesn’t Have to Pay His Taxes.

As for Stephen Joyce. Apart from being the Minister for Business, Innovation and Everything in the Whole World, he is now the minister responsible for dealing with Novopay. On the one hand he has started off with a bang announcing a ministerial inquiry and a “technical audit” to ensure the robustness of the software (I appear to be using a lot of “inverted” commas today – this may be a direct response to my increasing cynicism towards this government).

Ultimately you can say all you like Your Joyceness, but the reality is that you and the previous Labour government made your decisions solely based on cost. The cheapest tender won through in the end. As I’ve said before, the cheapest doesn’t always work out to be the best – especially when those tendering didn’t really understand what they were tendering for because the people they were tendering for didn’t really explain properly to the people doing the tendering what they really and actually wanted from the thing that was being tendered for. Or something.

However, amongst the Novopay madness and the wondering about where Craig Foss is now, something popped up this morning that caught my eye. This little piece of interestingness that was featured on the Fairfax website Stuff this morning.

Imagine my surprise when I read this:

“We believe that the future of learning will be blended; students will combine learning from online and video technology with group work and individual study”

Nikki Kaye, Chair, Education Select Committee

Apart from not really marrying with the current National Party policy of OneSizeFitsAll education with their national standards and stuff, this is the most forward thinking thing I’ve heard from a government person. Ever.

This is how I actually think. School needs to almost like work – project based, rich experiences that are in context so we don’t get the disengagement that is really behind the “tail” that Hekia and her National buddies keep going on about.

The policy direction in education has, for a long time, been a “back in my day” attitude when it should really be “what do the learners of the future need” attitude. We need more of the thinking Nikki Kay has going on in her head to seep through to the empty vessels that make up the rest of her cabinet.

And I never, EVER, thought I would be commending someone from National about education.

Mr. B

Caretaker’s $102m pay packet – Ministry of Education – NZ Herald News

I don’t need add anything to this… Although if Craig Foss wasn’t already on holidays he would probably say it was a ‘typo.’

Going… Going… ?

Many teachers and parents around the country will be sitting down relieved today following the departure of Lesley “Innit” Longstone yesterday. After some to-ing and fro-ing with State Services Commissioner Ian Rennie she fell on Hekia Parata’s sword and will no longer be our beloved Secretary of Education.

Cue thousands of dollars in golden handshake.

With everything that has happened (or if you aren’t being novopaid – is happening) in education in 2012, everyone is asking the question: Who will be next?

Apart from looking very statesmen-like doing the Gangnam Style on breakfast radio yesterday morning, John Key has issued a brief statement saying he has “complete confidence” in Hekia Parata. Any political junkie will understand that the phrase “complete confidence” is often trotted out just before someone is dumped.

National has had experience with this when the entire caucus expressed confidence in Jim Bolger before he went on an overseas trip only to dump him while he was away. Stink one for Jim.

Although Key has hinted at a minor reshuffle to deal with Lockwood Smith’s retirement junket to London to be High Commissioner to the National Opera, I don’t believe Parata will be dumped.

The National Party, through the spin whizzes of Stephen Joyce and John Key, were behind the appointment of Parata in the first place. She is one of them. She can talk the talk – quite literally. If you’ve viewed her answers to simple parliamentary questions in recent times you will know what I’m talking about.

Parata is EXACTLY the type of politician Key and Joyce and those invisible-former-journalists-now-working-as-PR-spinner-types love. Pretty and able to say nothing while sounding like they are saying everything. They appointed her for that very reason. They would never get rid of her now because she is doing EXACTLY what they want her to do. Closing schools, bringing in National Standards, getting charter school operators organised for the great takeover of Christchurch.

There is no way they are going to get rid of her…

Craig Foss, on the other hand… They have a huge excuse to get rid of him. He signed off on Novopay. Allowing them to start-up without running a trial. Plus he’s not very easy on the eye. And he speaks pretty normally when answering a question.

Craig Foss, Minister of Novopay


So, in short, Hekia will stay because the National-led regime love their spin and that’s where she excels. Foss will go because he looks a bit like Uncle Monty from Withnail & I.


Either way, when they are making their decision, at no time will they consider the learning needs of New Zealand children.

Also guaranteed.

Mr B.

It Seems the Novopay Worm Has Turned

I was driving to school this morning and something amazing happened. The Ministry of Education ripped in to Talent2. Some of you usual readers will be a bit stunned. What? The ministry? And I say to you, “Yes! That very same ministry you are thinking of!”

First things first. The item I was listening to on Morning Report happened just before the 7.30am news. As a programme the seem to have been doing just as well as Campbell Live with their extended coverage of the ongoing payroll issue debacle catastrophe. The most important thing to mention about the interview today. No Lesley Longstone. No Craig Foss. No Hekia Parata. The woman interviewed was a “Group Manager (I am unclear on what one of these people does – manager suggests some kind of control? Maybe of a group?)” at the ministry Rebecca Elvy. I suggest you listen because the language being used by Elvy marks what I believe is a sea-change in the way the Ministry of Education is talking about Novopay operators Talent2.

In brief:

  1. There will be an independent inquiry into the Novopay system early in the new year. The word ‘independent’ excites me. Hopefully they will look into everything. 
  2. Elvy was critical of John Rawlinson from Talent2 whose spin-speak last week implied that it school admin staff were partly responsible. That comment from Rawlinson infuriated the DP at my school who is now the official Novopay data entry clerk (she pretty much does nothing else now).
  3. At no point during the entire interview did I have to carefully think about what Elvy was saying and quickly translate it into plain English before she started on her next answer. She sounded normal. Completely normal like she’d never talked to anyone in PR ever. This is in stark contrast to her big boss Hekia Parata who has the ability to make people want to rip their ears off because all she needs to do is answer “yes” or “no” but has instead said something like, “Insofar as my advisors have informed me, and as we look forward to the future ahead, and review any past futures that have yet to occur, it is becoming evident to me that it would be premature to answer your question without further looking into the issues that the honourable member has raised in a way that would allow me to answer the question forthrightly. Or words to that effect Mr. Speaker.”

So finally, after months of trying to defend their installation of a system that just can’t handle the job it was sold to do, the Ministry of Education has given up their line of excuses. About time. There is nothing worse in politics than a politician or public servant trying to defend something that is going utterly pear-shaped.

Take John Banks for example. He came back into parliament at the end of last year after doing a secret deal with John Key (which both men defended) and then had to defend himself against all sorts of drip-fed wonders from that fantastic German party-boy Kim Dotcom. The thing was if he’d just come clean about what was said on the teapot tape AND just told us everything about Dotcom right at the front. Instead he got on his high horse, defended his position and has ultimately come out of the whole think looking like an ignorant, rich, out-of-touch imbecile who cares about John Banks and nobody else. It’s always the cover-up that gets them.

Anyway, back to Novopay. The first course of action the ministry took was to try to defend the system. Enhancing the positive – we’ve had over 80,000 successful payments, rather than the negative of nearly 10,000 errors. Now they’ve gone the other way. They must be thanked – criticised for taking so long, but thanked for finally doing the right thing. Although in saying that Rebecca Elvy has given a statement to John Campbell which has highlighted the fact that, “92,000 payments went through successfully,” so maybe I spoke too soon.

Novopay is a complete nonsense. It was mis-sold to the Ministry of Education by an Australian company who believed their own PR hype and thought they were up to the job, but clearly weren’t. We found out on the weekend that the new NZ Post payroll is operated by Talent2 and that also collapsed in a screaming heap as soon as it was launched with problems continuing for months. The fact that this didn’t alert people at the Ministry of Education before they accepted the Talent2 tender is beyond me. Mind you, Wellington is a pretty big city and all those government departments and SOE head offices must be miles from each other…

The people we elect to spend our tax money need to be a bit more careful. Don’t just pick the cheapest option.

But a big thanks needs go to the retail banks of New Zealand who are featured on Campbell Live tonight as offering free overdrafts to teachers who’ve missed payments or gone into the red because of the debacle. At least someone is helping. It would be nice if that someone was from the government.

Hopefully we all get our end of year pay when that comes through in a couple of weeks.

Good luck everyone!

Mr B.