The magazine Accountancy Age has added its voice to the call for the Post Office to act over IT concerns (the Horizon system it uses in sub post offices for its accounting).
Regular readers will know that this column has chronicled many retailers’ horror stories of bankruptcies and imprisonment, picked up latterly by the BBC. Computer Weekly has also reported on the subject.
After some 30 subpostmasters had come forward with complaints about glitches in their Horizon system, resulting in discrepancies for six of them which added up to deficits of £430,000 collectively, Accountancy Age reported on October 8: “IT professionals have been watching the news closely, and discussion has focused on whether the Post Office has undertaken an IT audit and whether the software provider is becoming embroiled in the row between subpostmasters and their employer.
“The interest in the accounting system is given extra urgency because of PM Gordon Brown’s announcement last week that the Post Office would return to offering banking services as a means of building more competition in the market.”
The Post Office remains in denial over any problems concerning Horizon and I do not have room to record all retailers’ tales that I have received.
Here is a sample: A retailer in the North East lost thousands. He blames an upgrade in 2004. He started to do his own forensics and noticed that one of the pay stations had a problem (classic example: customer wants £20, staff swipes card and what was printed out was a mobile top-up for Tesco). When this pay station was replaced, the losses stopped.
Another told me about the ‘snapshots’ he can get from his epos of all transactions done. Recently £10K went missing. When he did the snapshot of his second pay station there was a different set of figures and he could see that every transaction for the previous Thursday was missing. He did fresh snapshots and, hey presto, the machines tallied. The snapshot highlighted a hardware problem and it was fixed straightaway by replacing the machine.