Leaked email: Novopay forerunner laments “having our good record tarnished”

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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18th December, 2012 Leave a Comment

Novopay’s animated customers.

The fiasco surrounding Novopay’s handling of the payroll for New Zealand schools – “accurately, on time, every time”, remember -  seems unlikely to fade away in 2013, with fresh tales of botch-uppery emerging by the day, such as here, here and here.

And a leaked document has now surfaced in an unlikely place: on the social news side Reddit.

An internal email to staff from Datacom’s chief executive, Greg Davidson, writes of “having our good record tarnished” by the stories of Novopay’s repeated errors. He notes the “accurate delivery of pay to teachers for more than 2 years beyond the originally scheduled finish date” provided by his company, which lost the contract to Novopay owners Talent 2 in a competitive tender in 2007.

“We’re proud of our extended track record of delivering the payroll with minimal fuss and error for the duration of our watch,” he writes in an email sent to staff last month, and apparently posted shortly afterwards on Reddit by user “ilikemyjob2012” under the heading “Throw away because I like my job. The following was written to all Datacom staff by the CEO”.

In the email, Davidson, writes: “We’re also proud that in the lead up to the final payroll and the handover to Talent 2 …  we earned praise from the Ministry who stated that the standard had never been higher.”

It is unclear what prompted the email, but it concludes with a caution that “For those of you who are not closely involved please be assured – we did an excellent job and right now continuing to do a good job means leaving any commenting on this issue to me.”

I have separately learned that Datacom were told the loss of the contract centred on Talent 2 offering “a more proven system”.

With a number of Official Information Act requests lodged with the Ministry of Education, including from the canine Campbell Live programme, 2013 is likely to bring answers to outstanding questions about the costs incurred by the government in the switch of contracts (sealed under the last government), the subsequent delays, and the ongoing errors.

The email, which I understand to be authentic, reads:

As many of you will know we here at Datacom delivered the payroll service for teaching and non-teaching staff in state sector schools under contract to the Ministry of Education for over 16 years, from 1996 to August 15 this year. We built the payroll to the specifics of the agreements MOE have with their staff and we launched an online facility ‘i-paydata’ to streamline processing a couple of years ago. The teachers’ payroll is now in its fourth cycle with Talent 2 and by now most of the country knows that there continues to be widespread problems. Frustration around this is being expressed in multiple forums, feelings are running high and there are masses of information, accurate and otherwise, swirling around in the media and on various blogs and social media sites.

The outstanding work done by Datacom’s Annette Highnam and her team at PayServe ensured accurate delivery of pay to teachers for more than 2 years beyond the originally scheduled finish date. We’re proud of our extended track record of delivering the payroll with minimal fuss and error for the duration of our watch. We’re also proud that in the lead up to the final payroll and the handover to Talent 2, the company that runs the current Novopay system, we earned praise from the Ministry who stated that the standard had never been higher. I have been asked multiple times why we are no longer doing the work; we initially lost the work via competitive tender in 2007. Despite this, we not only kept delivering way beyond when we originally were scheduled to but even as recently as this year had responded to a request from the Ministry to give them the option to have us continuing to deliver the teachers’ payroll. As part of this we offered to migrate them to Datacom’s modern DataPay over the next couple of years something we have done for more than 1000 companies.

It’s important for you all to know that we don’t enjoy having our good record tarnished, as we have been mentioned inaccurately a couple of times, and I’ve taken this up directly with the Ministry of Education. An important principle for this company is the confidentiality of our dealings with our customers and protecting this is a priority. I’d like again to thank all of you who worked on the payroll in the past. It is unfortunately only now in hindsight that the professionalism and expertise we demonstrated can be truly appreciated. For those of you who are not closely involved please be assured – we did an excellent job and right now continuing to do a good job means leaving any commenting on this issue to me.

I know all across the company we have a full load of work to keep us all focused on our customers from now until our well-earned Christmas break. Keep up the great work.

Regards Greg Davidson

Update/correction: The message from Davidson, I’m told, in fact appeared on the Datacom intranet, rather than in an all-staff email.

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