MIDDAY UPDATE: Auditor-General monitoring Novopay

Jan 24 (BusinessDesk) - The government's auditor is closely watching the debacle over Novopay, the problem-plagued software being used to pay teachers' salaries, but is holding off on a full inquiry while an independent probe occurs.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost says her office is instead working with the Ministry of Education and schools to try and ensure they don't face undue additional costs preparing audited accounts because of the difficulties many have experienced in having their staff paid accurately.

Prime Minister John Key made his fourth most senior Minister, Steven Joyce, responsible for resolving the Novopay issue in a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this week, relieving former Associate Education Minister Craig Foss of the task, which has seriously damaged the reputation of Education Minister Hekia Parata.

“The Ministry announced last year that it would commission an independent review and last week said that its review is to be brought forward," said Provost. "It would be premature for this office to begin an inquiry at the moment. The agencies that are responsible for understanding and fixing the problems should be given a reasonable opportunity to do so."

Key warned Novopay provider Talent2, an Australian company, that it was "on notice" over the ongoing failures in the system, which took years to implement and replaced a functioning service provided by New Zealand firm Datacom.

No sign of a pick-up in manufacturing
Contrary to other recent indicators of economic recovery, there is no sign of the manufacturing sector picking up strongly, according to the latest BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index.

The December PMI was barely positive at 50.1, up 1.3 points from November, but down on the readings in December 2011 and 2010, with a mixture of positive and negative elements in the five elements that make up the index.

"There is certainly a bit to like in the production index rising to 52.5 from 49.6 in November," BNZ said. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in activity.

But the new orders component slipped to 48.9 from 50.0 in the previous month, raising questions about the durability of demand.

"Such pluses and minuses are littered throughout the December PMI survey across industries, regions and firm size," BNZ said.

The flat manufacturing report comes after the latest Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research indicated the economy was recovering and reports of new records for residential property prices, particularly in Auckland.

Fairfax moves more jobs to NZ from Australia
Publisher Fairfax Media is moving more sub-editing work from Australia to New Zealand in a bid to reduce costs.

Fairfax has already moved sub-editing work from the Newcastle Herald, the Illawarra Mercury and community titles to New Zealand, resulting in the loss of 66 jobs in Australia.

On Wednesday it said it will move the copy sub-editing of its Financial Review Group (FRG), which includes The Australian Financial Review newspaper and BRW magazine, to New Zealand, affecting 13 jobs in Australia.

Fairfax Media New Zealand group executive editor Paul Thompson declined to comment on how many jobs will be created in New Zealand as a result of the latest move, which is subject to a two-week period of consultation.

"FRG, like every media business in the world that is committed to its future, is changing and improving the way it delivers journalism and services," the company said.

The move of the work to New Zealand will deliver significant cost efficiencies while maintaining the quality of the publications, the company said.



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