System error hits prison staff pay

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The Independent Online

A multi-million-pound computer system introduced to handle Prison Service pay has caused chaos, with thousands of staff failing to receive overtime or their correct salaries.

The entire staff, from governors to prison officers and orderlies, has been affected. Some have taken out bank loans to cover the shortfall. Others have been waiting for overtime payments, which make up an important part of many prison pay packages. Some staff have been advised to apply for emergency funds through local Prison Service offices to tide them over.

The errors have become so acute that the Home Office plans to introduce an emergency action plan to make sure staff get paid.

The problems began in July after CMG Admiral won a multi-million Home Office contract to run the software in a public-private partnership scheme, with the Home Office in charge of the hardware. The new Payfact Enterprise system was designed to automate all the salary payments to 68,000 staff in the Prison Service.

Serious errors in its operation led to the recent replacement of the management in October and November, but this failed to end the chaos.

"Basically we have been told to go to our local payroll staff to tide us over," said employee. "It's not just the prisoners who are angry this Christmas, it's the staff.

"It's not as if these are unstressful jobs. We are looking after some pretty dangerous people ... not to be paid for it, particularly at this time of year, is awful."

A Home Office spokeswoman said that "initial problems" had been encountered with the system. "Part of it was the software but there were a number of different things. We believe that every employee has eventually received their full pay."

Humfrey Malins, the Tories' home affairs spokesman, called the pay problems "an insult to hard-working prison staff".