Post Office Suspense

What will will learn tomorrow?

Didn't find your answer?

With the last couple of weeks of the Inquiry being the lawyers giving evidence - I trust the Solicitors Regulation Authority were closely watching - we get to hear from Rod Ismay tomorrow. His second appearance. The author of the so called Ismay Report which was labeled as a report of “one side of the coin” and thus rather biased. As true as that label might have been the report did identify errors and bugs in Horizon. However the Post Office obviously took comfort in the fact that Fujitsu had a full time dedicated team to resolving bugs and defects and thus any bugs and defects were known about – so nothing to see here!

I’ve never been fan of Suspense Accounts. In computerised accounting systems the use of them to post the balancing item is hardly relevant and so their use is really to do tomorrow what you could do today.

One could argue that if you wanted to facilitate fraud and false accounting then the use of a suspense account would assist. Rather than take an incoming bank receipts file and allocating those entries to the respective Subpostmasters’ accounts and then reconciling your accounts with that of that generated Horizon subpostmasters’ account (the “Supplier Statement” principle) you could “hide” this by using a suspense account. You could claim that the incoming bank receipts file is too difficult to identify the subpostmaster branch or even the “customer”. This way you could post these amounts to the suspense account and then “match” the subpostmasters account with the Horizon generated statement by journalling between the two as needed. Then of course inject some transactions into Horizon system to create shortfalls and coerce the subpostmasters to cough up. This lack of visibility would allow the “unclaimed” and surplus balances on the suspense account to be used for employee bonuses.

Just a thought you do understand!

If you have the chance to watch the Inquiry tomorrow please do and try not to throw anything at the screen. I hope we get to learn a lot more about their accounting methods than we have thus far.

Replies (27)

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By rmillaree
09th May 2024 17:23

i think the worst offender here is hmrc - where clients have made payments with wrong refernces that have gone to suspense acount - i have never ever seen hmrc voluntarily flag up that they have an unalocated payment? that is really beyond shocking if hmrc are prone just to snaffle the money and say nothing?

has anyone ever seen contact from hmrc saying we have this payment in suspense where should it be allocated ?

note i am not laking about payments linked to te right tax here where its linked to paye or copr tax - i know those will tend to be refunded - purely about ones that go into the general suspense account. Hopefully richard prior hasnt been working his magic on that suspense account !!

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Replying to rmillaree:
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By D V Fields
09th May 2024 19:28

They went for someone of the stature of Brian Altman KC an ex First Senior Treasury Counsel instead. Hopefully Brian will update his curriculum vitae with the work he did in identifying the Post Office investigation and prosecution function to be working in a "well-organised, structured and efficient manner". Obviously was well impressed with Jarnail Singh.

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By carnmores
09th May 2024 17:54

I remember Barings Bank suspense account!

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Replying to carnmores:
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By D V Fields
09th May 2024 19:02

I presume you are referring to Nick Leeson.
If only the Post Office had an ex-auditor who knew what to look for to put in charge.

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By carnmores
09th May 2024 21:23

I was I wonder if people remember him or the bank

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RLI
By lionofludesch
09th May 2024 18:17

The suspense is killing me.

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By D V Fields
09th May 2024 19:05

Hope it will be worth waiting for.
Not long to go now Paula.

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By carnmores
09th May 2024 21:25

I think its killed enough people already :-(
you hang in there Lion

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By Moonbeam
10th May 2024 11:31

Surely as a senior level auditor he would know all about ensuring that computerised accounting systems need to be checked as to their safeguards. I can't believe he wouldn't have had that experience in practice.

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By FactChecker
10th May 2024 14:03

Experience? Almost certainly.
But that's easily trumped by what, based on all the previous witnesses, seems to have been a pre-requisite for senior roles ... the inability to remember anything!

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By D V Fields
10th May 2024 21:59

Paula has a few more days to practice her technique.

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By Moonbeam
10th May 2024 17:56

Isn't the issue the whole way through these many days of the inquiry that no-one senior, in spite of knowing/discovering major issues did anything to blow the PO cover?
Could that be because being a whistle blower means you won't ever get employment again?

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By rmillaree
10th May 2024 18:09

its sad - seems to be that an unusually high % of well paid people in these positions of pwer have zero morals unfortunately.

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RLI
By lionofludesch
10th May 2024 19:17

rmillaree wrote:

its sad - seems to be that an unusually high % of well paid people in these positions of pwer have zero morals unfortunately.

There was a story recently about Paula Vennells chastising someone for putting professional standards before the interests of the company.

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By FactChecker
10th May 2024 20:27

You'd think that a minister of the church would know Matthew 6:24 ...

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Note: Vennells was an Anglican priest, considered for the post of Bishop of London.

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By D V Fields
10th May 2024 21:48

It was said of Susan Crichton, who felt that the Second Sight Review should be truly independent.

Paula Vennells, the chief executive reflected that ‘Susan was possibly more loyal to her professional conduct requirements and put her integrity as a lawyer above the interests of the business’.

Praise indeed if it were from anyone else.

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Replying to Moonbeam:
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By D V Fields
10th May 2024 21:55

For Brian Altman and Simon Clarke it was not being a whistleblower but more their professional duty. Amongst many others.

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By FactChecker
10th May 2024 22:38

No excuses, mind ... but the trouble is that when an organisation becomes cankerous from the head and starts to move on down through management, then there tends not be even a paper's thickness between professional duty and whistleblowing.

Which is as it should be ... except that (as P Eye keeps proving in NHS Trusts and elsewhere) the whistleblower is then targeted by the organisation - who go after mental health and bankruptcy, whilst ensuring that a career is brought to a shuddering stop (often forever).

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By Paul Crowley
10th May 2024 23:59

Odd really. Those types? Nothing happens. Some minor bookkeeper or accountant fails to keep adequate records for AML (despite no need to report any clients)? Significant financial penalties.

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By carnmores
11th May 2024 07:47

what i wonder is the difference between no morals and being immoral.
the whole matter is a classic case of groupthink
horrible horrible

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By FactChecker
11th May 2024 15:11

I suspect you weren't really requesting an answer to your question, but ...

'no morals' = amoral, which means the absence of any moral context probably due to no understanding of the concept;
'immoral' = holding a quite definite moral perspective, which is in direct opposition to those held by the moral majority (often described simply as 'society').

It is almost impossible for a human to be amoral except as a result of a medical condition; so unless the P.O., for instance, had a strange recruitment selection process that attracted/accepted the amoral ... what we are witnessing are people who had immorality writ down their corporate spine (you know, the one made of jelly).

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By carnmores
11th May 2024 16:35

indeedy

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By Arbitrary
16th May 2024 17:37

What is morality but group think?

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By FactChecker
16th May 2024 19:17

Not really.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Last 6 words are subjective but important.

Morality is more akin to group consensus - but across a much wider group (often referred to as society), hence societal norms.

Of course that doesn't make any majority accepted set of morals 'correct' in an absolute sense - but nor are they automatically irrational or dysfunctional.

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By lionofludesch
16th May 2024 19:29

I would've thought we were talking about ethics rather than morals here.

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By FactChecker
16th May 2024 20:06

That's the problem with these meandering threads (well that and an aging brain) ... it's easy to get hi-jacked and forget the premise where the thread started.
My fault ... I followed the breadcrumbs left by carnmores wondering about "the difference between no morals and being immoral" - and from there I'd left the footpath.

In the case of the P.O. (and unfortunately much of big business even when it's not quite so overt), the issue is indeed the complete absence of any ethics - corporately and individually within the 'management team'.
Which, winding back from my previous comment, displayed all the classic signs of 'group think'.

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By carnmores
17th May 2024 11:51

Ony breadcrumbs?

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