Novopay triumph for government

Today the National government announced the future plans for the troubled education payroll system Novopay. The system has had a rough ride since it was implemented almost two years ago.

At parliament today the Cabinet Minister for Fixing Up Really Bad Shit Stephen Joyce announced plans for the government to take over running the system from Australian company Talent2. Joyce laid out the plans at a press conference in parliament today.

“We are very excited about this new plan,” said Mr Joyce excitedly, “because we have gained control of the system so we can now begin to make some serious changes.”

Mr Joyce outlined the deal he had personally made with Talent2.

“We will take control of Novopay from Talent2 and they will pay us between $18 and $24 million. In return we will get full access to the software and hardware currently being used by Talent2 to run the system. Talent2 will be required to supply, absolutely free of charge, ongoing support because we still don’t know how the software works. For this free service the government will pay $9 million. Talent2 will also be penalised for any other issues that arise after the government takes over the contract. For this the government will pay $2 million for each error that Talent2 don’t know how to fix and $7 million for the ones they can fix. Also, for a small fee of $23 million, the government will get to use the words Talent2 as many times as we want during this press conference. Talent2.”

Joyce was adamant there were no winners from this process.

“Teachers have been left out-of-pocket. They have been mucked around waiting for pay, being paid too much, hardly being paid at all. The government have also suffered through this spending millions of dollars on software that they neither know the workings of or understand the workings of the software. Talent2 have also been big losers in this. They’ve had their contract cancelled and there’s the ignominy of being paid over $100 million. They will be very disappointed with that outcome.”

Mr Joyce says there was no way to foresee any of the issues created by the foreign-owned payroll and HR company set up by an actor. He also said it was important to remember the contract was negotiated under the last Labour government and the Greens are a bunch of fruitloops.


How to measure stuff

Good morning everybody – Hekia speaking.

You may not have heard from me for a while. I can tell you I’ve been very extremely busy. Mostly I’ve been consulting with relevant stakeholders on a range of things. That’s probably why I’ve been out of the media; there’s only seven stakeholders in the country that I’m aware of but they’re all very important and donate a lot of money are full of so many ideas, so it’s important for the National Party education of New Zealand children that I spend as much time with them as possible.

What I did want to talk about today is the process of measuring, in particular, how to measure stuff.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh god no. Please don’t talk about measuring stuff. This is the single most boring thing you can talk about other than fiscal responsibility, climate change or basic human rights.”

However, measuring stuff is the only way to get better at things. If we measure something, we can find out where things need to be fixed. If we measure something, we can find out where we can stop spending money altogether. It’s really that simple.

Let me give you an example.

Recently I was attending a meeting of stakeholders. Some of these millionaires raised some interesting points. The over-arching consensus from all of those present was that despite the fact that none of them had worked in education or been inside a school since they had left formal education in the mid- to late-1970s, all were in agreement that things were much better back then and all children knew how to read, write and do their times-tables. Many said workers in their large corporations spent hours reciting the times-tables; it’s an extremely common part of many, many modern-day jobs. There was a concern that current school leavers would not be able to work out 6 x 7 and would think that, despite the advent of calculators and Google, there was no way on earth they would ever be able to work out this most complex of workplace problems.

It was then that I, Minister of Education, suggested a solution. A solution that already exists.

Why don’t we hold weekly times-tables tests across all New Zealand schools. Even though many such tests are available on-line for free, we can hire a multi-national test writer like Pearson to make the tests really hard so they are actually tests of unknown knowledge rather than tests of things children know. That way we can work out which children in New Zealand don’t know problems like 6 x 7 and then we can syphon money from Reading Recovery, ESOL, RTLBs and other special needs programmes to make sure that Novopay still sort of works.

We will be able to, in consultation with the journalistic community, release the results of our testing and, over time, see all the vast improvements that will be made as we reduce the overall education budget to spend it on failed pay systems and struggling chartnership schools.

I think you’ll all agree with me if we are sure every child knows that 6 x 7 is 48, New Zealand will be far more competitive on the international stage.

Right. Off to speak with more stakeholders at a $70,000 a head continental breakfast.

Hek x

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

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.