Word of the day

June 4, 2013

Popinjay – a vain or conceited person; a person given to vain, pretentious displays and empty chatter; coxcomb; fop; a woodpecker; the figure of a parrot usually fixed on a pole and used as a target in archery and gun shooting.

Dead parrot no joke for Defence

June 4, 2013

UK Ministry of Defence have paid out more than a million pounds in the last three years for damage from low-flying aircraft:

One of the 200 claims was from a parrot owner who got £2,200 in compensation because his pet fell off its perch and died after being startled by an RAF Hercules.

Nearly £300 was paid to two therapy groups disturbed by the roar of fighter planes while £900 was claimed for damage to a child’s trampoline in Lancashire. . .

The parrot death follows a similar incident in which a low-flying plane caused another bird to fall off its perch and break both legs.

Its owner received compensation to cover vet bills including the cost of two splints. . .

Come back Monty Python, reality is overtaking your comedy.


Novopay report sobering reading

June 4, 2013

The report into Novapay, released by Steven Joyce,  the Minister responsible makes sobering reading.

Among the key findings are:

  • The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education, and also the wider public sector
  • Weaknesses in project governance and project leadership allowed Novopay to go live with a number of significant risks which the Ministry of Education and its vendors, including Talent2, were over-confident of managing
  • These risks resulted in service issues and the Ministry and Talent2 were unprepared and overwhelmed by their nature and scale
  • The School payroll is overly complex due to an accumulation of historical changes
  • There was extensive customisation of the Novopay software
  • There was a failure to involve the users of the Novopay system in the schools and appreciate their requirements
  • There was no overall accountability for Independent Quality Assurance
  • The project has cost $23.9 million more than estimated for a total cost to date of $56.8 million
  • Ministers were not well served by the information they were given on the project. Reporting to Ministers was inconsistent, unduly optimistic and sometimes misrepresented the situation.

“This report makes for sober reading and, while it confirms the view that there is a lot of blame to go around for the problems with Novopay, it provides a greater understanding of the level of fault between the organisations involved,” Mr Joyce says.

“There are substantial lessons to be learned by the Ministry of Education in a number of areas which the Acting Secretary of Education is taking steps to address.

“There are also lessons to be learned by the public service and the wider State Sector on the design, delivery and oversight of major ICT projects.

“As the report notes, these problems are not unique with issues identified in the Ministerial Inquiry into the police computer system INCIS 13 years ago also evident here.

The government intends to act on all the recommendations.

States Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says the findings are a wake up call for the public service:

. . . “Large technology-enabled projects, such as Novopay are complex and require a high level of attention and expertise. This is true for both the public and private sectors, given the opportunities, and the challenges, of rapidly developing information technology, Mr Rennie said.

“In this environment, there can never be a guarantee that nothing will go wrong but, as the Head of State Services, I have made it absolutely clear to Public Service chief executives that they are responsible and accountable for ensuring the effective delivery of technology-enabled projects.

“Equally, Boards of Crown Entities have this responsibility for their organisations. My expectation is that, where needed, Chief Executives will seek support from professionals and act on their advice. . .

Paying people correctly is a fundamental responsibility of any employer.

Teachers and  support staff have been let down by this expensive debacle but at least the report into the latest pay period shows improvements:

Pay Period 5, which was paid on the morning of 29 May, paid 88,525 people a total of $173.53 million.

The PwC report shows that complaints and notifications were received regarding 0.39 per cent of staff across the country, 29 staff were notified as not paid, 115 were overpaid, and 199 underpaid. Affected staff were from 234 schools or 9.5 per cent of schools in the payroll system.

“This was the largest payroll so far this financial year and again shows a consistent performance within the 0.5 per cent steady state error level identified by the Technical Review team. Five of the last six pay rounds have now achieved that,” Mr Joyce says.

Given the complexity of the pay system and all the problems, I really do wonder what’s so bad about bulk funding.

The full report is here.

Not a problem?

June 4, 2013

Turners & Growers, the fruit marketer controlled by Germany’s BayWa Aktiengellschaft, has bought the 30 percent in specialist producer exporter Delica it didn’t already own from managers for $25.8 million.

. . . Delica was set up in 1994 to sell citrus, cherries, asparagus and berry fruit. It formed a joint venture with Turners & Growers in 2007.

The purchase price entails $17.5 million upfront and four payments of about $2.06 million over the next four years. The company hired an independent valuer to give a valuation range for the business, it said.

Buying Delica is part of the company’s strategy “to grow its trading business ton and within Asia, further develop the global trading capability of Turners & Growers and to rationalise operating costs for the benefit of New Zealand,” chairman Sir John Anderson said in a statement. . .

I don’t have a problem with overseas investment but some xenophobes do yet there hasn’t been a peep about this from the usual suspects.

Is it that they see a difference between selling produce and the land on which the produce is grown, or is it the nationality of the purchases which means they don’t have a problem with this sale.

Govt books better than forecast

June 4, 2013

More good news on the economic front – the government books are better than forecast:

A stronger economy is underpinning tax revenue and, combined with responsible control over spending, kept the OBEGAL deficit below $4 billion in the 10 months to 30 April, Finance Minister Bill English says.

The $3.99 billion deficit is $664 million smaller than in the latest forecasts finalised before the Budget.

“A number of indicators confirm that New Zealanders can look to the future with some well-earned confidence and optimism,” Mr English says. “The economy is growing more strongly, new jobs are being created, unemployment is coming down and business and consumer confidence have picked up.

“The Government is supporting these positive trends with a common-sense economic programme focused on giving businesses the confidence to invest, grow and create new jobs. The plan is working and the benefits are starting to show through in the Government’s finances, as we remain on track to surplus in 2014/15.”

Post Budget commentary was almost all positive and several commentators finally admitted that the Key-English prescription is working.

In particular, in the 10 months to 30 April, core Crown tax revenue was $3.1 billion higher than in the corresponding period the previous year. This was due mainly to increases in source deductions and other individuals’ tax, and we are also seeing benefits from the Government’s tax package in 2010 broadening the tax base.

At the same time, the Government is keeping control of its spending, with core Crown spending slightly below forecast at $57.8 billion. Net core Crown debt at $60 billion – or 28.7 per cent of GDP – was $441 million below forecast as at 30 April.

“It’s important that we cap and then start reducing this debt by sticking to sound fiscal and economic management,” Mr English says. “That will allow us to meet our second fiscal target of reducing net debt to no more than 20 per cent of GDP by 2020.”

A broader tax base and better control of government spending are both showing benefits.

This isn’t just good for the books, it’s good for the economy and that is good for people.

Less money taken from taxpayers and less wasted on unnecessary initiatives leaves more for those who make it and those who need it.

The colour of slime

June 4, 2013

Green rhymes with clean but it is also the colour of slime and Green co-leader Russel Norman showed the dirty side of his politics in a speech at the weekend comparing John Key to the late Sir Robert Muldoon.

In doing so he reminded us he’s Australian which wouldn’t matter at jot if this comparison didn’t show he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Karl du Fresne who admits he’s no cheerleader for the current PM and did know the former one well said:

None of the prime ministers we’ve had since Muldoon could be compared with him, for which we should be grateful. He was a vindictive bully who cleverly exploited the politics of fear and division, and never more so than during the 1981 Springbok tour.

In fact I would suggest that in terms of personality, Key is the least like Muldoon. Anyone old enough to remember the political unpleasantness of the late 1970s and early 80s – which probably excludes a lot of Green voters – would have reacted with astonishment to Norman’s bizarre attempt to compare the two men. . .
Norman’s tirade wasn’t just bizarre.
Over at Keeping Stock, Inventory 2 points out it was contrary to his party’s statement of values among which is engage respectfully without personal attacks.
Norman isn’t the first to attack the PM personally – Labour has had several attempts to throw mud at him and each has ended with them looking dirty.
Mud sticks to the hand that throws it and until recently the Green Party had clean hands.
That was one of its strengths and one of the reason the party appealed to some people who might well be National voters, including women for whom environmental concerns are important.
The PM also rates well with women and one of the reasons for that is that he is unfailingly warm, genuinely interested in people and moderate.
Norman showed none of those characteristics at the weekend.
It was a speech which appealed to his dark green adherents but would have been another  turn-off for the floating voters in the middle he needs to convince if he’s to be part of a LabourGreen government.

Business confidence highest on record

June 4, 2013

Business confidence is at a record high:

Our monthly survey of BNZ Weekly Overview readers has revealed a new sharp jump in sentiment regarding where the economy will be in a year’s time to a net 57% optimistic from 45.3% in May. This is the highest result on record and gels with other confidence gauges showing business sentiment at strong levels. The survey would have captured any positive impact of Fonterra’s announcement of a $1.20 lift in its milk payout as well as the government’s mid-May Budget.
Higher business confidence leads to more investment and more jobs.
That filters through to the government’s books through more PAYE, GST and company tax.

The survey asked how respondents felt about the increasing importance of our economic relationship with China.

The majority – 66% were unconcerned, 12% indifferent, and just 22% concerned.

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