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Horizon: The 20-year accounting software scandal

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The saga of the Post Office Ltd Horizon accounting system spans more than two decades. This chronology tracks how the Horizon scandal played out on the pages of AccountingWEB since the system was introduced in 2000.

10th Jan 2024
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Labelled by The Guardian as “one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history”, the Horizon affair has rumbled on for more than 20 years, ensnaring as many as 900 subpostmasters in legal cases and claims that led to financial ruin, prison and in some cases suicide.

Stemming from unreliable software installed in sub-post office branches during the late 1999s, the UK’s largest and longest-running public sector technology scandal was recently serialised as a drama for ITV, resulting in a wave of publicity and calls for all Post Office staff wrongly accused of theft and false accounting to have their convictions overturned.

In this updated timeline, AccountingWEB tracks the Horizon case as accountants experienced it in the AccountingWEB archives and beyond. It was first published in April 2021 and draws heavily on the work done by AccountingWEB’s former editor John Stokdyk before he died in 2023.

2000

Post Office first introduced its new Horizon computer system to its network of UK sub post offices. The software had been developed by IT giant Fujitsu. A senior developer who worked on the initial project before it went live told Computer Weekly in an interview in 2021 that in the months leading up to its launch, Horizon’s problems were well known inside Fujitsu.

2002

Commenting in the wake of the Court of Appeals decision last week, AccountingWEB member hfiddes recalled: “I remember signing a petition in support of our longstanding local postmaster in East Twickenham when he lost his job around 2002… That was when the local MP and newspaper got involved, but it puzzled me at the time how it took years for wider support to build so it got to court cases etc.”

In subsequent years, more and more cases emerged elsewhere in local media, but were rebuffed as isolated cases by Post Office, which pursued any incidents where the takings of sub post offices varied from the Horizon figures as “false accounting”.

2009

The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) was founded in 2009 to help subpostmasters and mistresses who were afraid to go public with information or problems with Horizon for fear of prosecution.

2012

In June 2012, Post Office appointed external investigators, forensic accountants Second Sight to examine the allegations.

2013

January – Working with Second Sight, JFSA issued a call for evidence to be collected in confidence to feed into the independent examination.

JulySecond Sight’s interim report found no evidence of systemic problems with the core software, but it did find evidence of internal bugs. On two occasions in 2011 and 2012, “defects” in Horizon resulted in a shortfall of about £9,000 at 76 branches. Post Office took a year to realise that the second computer defect had happened.

Frenkels Forensics partner Vivian Cohen told AccountingWEB that he had represented a subpostmaster in court and argued that Horizon wasn’t always reliable and other people in Post Office could enter transactions besides his client. The subpostmaster got a suspended sentence. “People can be sent to prison quite often on the basis of a computer error,” said Cohen.

Post Office later made good the losses arising from the bugs that Second Sight identified and the subpostmasters were not held liable. Though relatively benign in its findings, the interim report raised enough doubts to mark the turning point of the Horizon saga. [DW1] 

August – Durham subpostmaster Tom Brown was cleared of stealing £85,000 after a five-year prosecution, while in Cornwall subpostmistress Susan Knight was also cleared of false accounting.

September – After the full Second Sight report into Horizon was leaked, David Winch commented on AccountingWEB: “I have come across criminal prosecutions of postmasters/postmistresses in respect of apparent shortfalls arising from comparison of Horizon figures and actual cash and stocks… Of course it is absolutely routine for wrongdoers to deny wrongdoing – but the number of these instances in Post Offices is disturbing.”

2015

Friction developed between Second Sight and its client after the accountants claimed Post Office withheld relevant documents. Post Office terminated the accountants’ contract and disbanded the working party. Second Sight nonetheless produced a confidential report.

In extracts from the Second Sight report obtained by BBC reporter Nick Wallis, the forensic accountants concluded that the design objective of producing a clear transactional audit trail allowing easy investigation of any errors “had not always been achieved”.

Post Office rebuffed the findings and denied any suggestion it improperly withheld information from the accountants or that the Horizon system suffered serious deficiencies. In a counter-report on its website, Post Office said “an exhaustive and informative process” confirmed there were “no system-wide problems with our computer system and associated processes”.

The Parliamentary select committee for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) investigated the affair and warned the secretary of state about a “lamentable lack of information provided to Second Sight” and urging the government to investigate these concerns.

2017–19

Although numerous Horizon cases were in progress and sub-judice, the BIS select committee undertook an inquiry on the future of the Post Office network.

2019

June – Publishing its findings, the BIS select committee chair commented, “If the government is really committed to taking action that delivers for the victims of this scandal it should bring forward a judge-led public inquiry.”

11 DecemberPost Office agreed a settlement with a group of 550 claimants in which chairman Tim Parker apologised: “In the past, we got things wrong in our dealings with a number of postmasters.” The undertaking to “reset” the organisation’s relationship with postmasters was accompanied by a £57.75m payment. After allowing for the costs of fighting the case, the claimants are likely to share £10m – less than £20,000 each.

16 December – In a verdict in favour of the subpostmasters’ association (Bates vs Post Office [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB)), Mr Justice Fraser ripped into Post Office’s evidence and concluded: “Horizon was not remotely robust. The number, extent and type of impact of the numerous bugs, errors and defects that I have found… makes this clear.”

He added that Post Office’s continual attempts to play down the evidence from postmasters demonstrated “a simple institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider any possible alternatives to their view of Horizon, which was maintained regardless of the weight of factual evidence to the contrary… This approach by Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred… It amounts to the 21st-century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat.”

2020

March – Following the conclusion of the Commons business committee investigation and the 2019 civil claims, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the cases of 42 convicted Post Office Ltd employees to the Court of Appeal on the grounds of abuse of process. They included subpostmasters, subpostmistresses, managers and counter assistants.

Second Sight’s Ian Henderson and Ron Warmington told the Commons investigation how Post Office had thwarted their investigation. “We identified evidence of flaws and bugs in Horizon. We also heard direct evidence of Post Office or Fujitsu altering transactions and balances without the knowledge of subpostmasters. Not only did Post Office refuse to accept that, but they refused to supply to Second Sight the documents that would enable us to investigate that issue,” said Henderson.

2021

April – On Friday 23 April 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 39 subpostmasters on charges of theft, fraud and false accounting arising from discrepancies logged on the Post Office’s Horizon accounting system. In their written summary of the case, the judges said the failures of investigation and disclosure were “so egregious as to make the prosecution of any of the Horizon cases an affront to the conscience of the court”.

At the time, Post Office had the power to prosecute its operators. By refusing to acknowledge known bugs in the Horizon system and treating shortfalls from an unreliable accounting system as an incontrovertible loss, Post Office Limited reversed the normal burden of proof and insisted the accused prove there had been no losses, the judges noted.

“Defendants were prosecuted, convicted and sentenced on the basis that the Horizon data must be correct, and cash must therefore be missing, when in fact there could be no confidence as to that foundation.”

Several AccountingWEB members took the opportunity to offer their perspective on the case in Any Answers.

An inquiry into the scandal was established in non-statutory form in September 2020, and first took evidence in January 2021. Following the overturning of convictions in April 2021 as listed above, the inquiry was converted to a statutory basis on 1 June 2021, meaning witnesses can now be compelled to give evidence. 

July 2021: The government announced that wrongly convicted subpostmasters would receive interim compensation of up to £100,000.

2022

February 2022: Subpostmasters and mistresses wrongly convicted of fraud and fired from their jobs based on evidence from a faulty computer system started to give evidence at the public inquiry. Baljit Sethi was the first witness to present his case. Sethi, a former banker, spent 19 years successfully running a branch in Romford, Essex keeping manual records. Following the installation of the Horizon system, Sethi was told he must cover a shortfall of more than £17,000 or risk prosecution. He was able to challenge the claim due to the lack of scrutiny over audit, but had his contract terminated. Sethi was made insolvent and had to seek an individual voluntary arrangement that prevented him from getting work or opening a bank account. “I fell into a deep depression and seriously considered suicide,” he said.

On Any Answers, AccountingWEB members also debated why the accountants for the Post Office businesses that were prosecuted hadn’t identified the problem.

July 2022: Since the Court of Appeal started setting aside convictions in April 2021, two different compensation schemes were established to cater for those who had settled without going to court and those who had been improperly convicted. However, the National Federation of Subpostmasters told a Parliamentary inquiry that tax could be due on compensation. Post Office told recipients to seek tax advice but did not provide any assistance beyond that. 

One AccountingWEB member reported their subpostmaster client had received £50,000 in historical compensation made up of £27,800 shortfall losses, £12,500 for distress and inconvenience, and £14,000 in interest, which has already had tax deducted at 20%. “I am wondering if the £27,800 shortfall losses is taxable?” they asked.

2023

March 2023: Tax barrister and campaigner Dan Neidle raised the alarm over the unfair tax treatment of compensation payments made to more than 2,000 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses who were wrongly prosecuted. 

In a post highlighting the plight of the Horizon victims, Neidle pointed out that the larger, more recent lump-sum payments for loss of earnings were putting the recipients into the top tax bracket. A postmaster on £30,000pa would normally take home around £25,000 after tax, he explained. If they get 10 years’ worth of earnings in one payment, they would take home £170,000 rather than £250,000. Compressing the payouts into one year would cost the recipient £80,000. 

“The tax impact of the settlements on the victims has not been thought through and, as a consequence, much of the compensation will disappear in tax,” Neidle wrote.

June 2023: Post Office executives were ordered to pay back bonuses they incorrectly received regarding the investigation of the Horizon IT miscarriage of justice after it emerged some victims had lost chunks of their compensation to tax.

Post Office also announced that it would be making top-up payments to subpostmasters in the historical shortfall scheme (HSS) to reimburse the compensation unfairly lost to tax. They would also be able to claim up to £300 spent on obtaining tax advice. The government enacted that the top-up payments would be exempt from income tax, capital gains tax and national insurance.

2024

1 January 2024: Part one of Mr Bates vs the Post Office, a four-part drama based on the events of the Horizon scandal, is broadcast on ITV, with the other three episodes following on consecutive evenings. At the time of writing it is the UK’s most-watched programme of 2024, with the series streamed 12.3m times in just eight days. It is reported that more than 50 new victims came forward after its broadcast. AccountingWEB members were among those who watched the programme and discussed it in this Any Answers thread.

5 January 2024: Post Office had still not met its commitment to pay top-up payments relating to the HSS late in the tax year to a sizable number of subpostmasters. HMRC confirmed that it will cancel penalties and interest for subpostmasters unable to meet their self assessment and tax payment deadlines due to the late top-up payments.

8 January 2024: A team of tax experts, mobilised by chartered accountant, tax writer and lecturer Rebecca Benneyworth, banded together to offer free-of-charge advice to subpostmasters who have received compensation from Post Office and are worried about their tax position. Their website is now live at subpostmasterstax.org.uk.

9 January 2024: Paula Vennells, Post Office chief executive between 2012 and 2019 (and before that group network director from 2007) handed back her CBE following mounting public pressure. “I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the subpostmasters and their families,” she said in a statement.

10 January 2024: Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced new legislation “to make sure those convicted are swiftly exonerated and compensated”. Government officials said the bill would be introduced “within weeks” to grant the acquittal this year.

10 January 2024: Audit experts told AccountingWEB that EY, the Big Four firm responsible for auditing Post Office throughout the Horizon scandal, had ‘awkward questions’ to answer about its failure to ask pertinent questions.

12 January 2024: A report published by Tax Policy Associates stated that Post Office may owe £100m in tax after incorrectly deducting compensation payments to subpostmasters in the Horizon scandal.

16 January 2024: Appearing before a committee of MPs, Fujitsu’s European director Paul Patterson apologised to the more than 900 subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted due to fundamental errors in its software. Patterson admitted that the Japanese software house knew about bugs and glitches in the system even before it was rolled out to Post Office branches in 1999, and stated that Fujitsu had a ‘moral obligation’ to contribute to Post Office scandal compensation.

Looking back over the chronology, longstanding Horizon-watcher David Winch told AccountingWEB: “Because postmasters were contractually obliged to make good certain shortfalls pretty much immediately out of their own pocket, some of them resorted to manipulating the figures to hide the shortfall. They may well have considered that – given a bit of time – they could work out what had gone wrong and correct it.

“As things turned out they were not able to resolve the conundrum at the time and when the Post Office auditors turned up they were shown to have manipulated the figures. So they were prosecuted and convicted of ‘false accounting’ for that manipulation – not for theft of cash.

“Since these postmasters did manipulate the figures, they did ‘gain’ in the sense that it delayed them having to pay up to cover the system shortfall and many of them did plead guilty to ‘false accounting’ at trial. One might expect that in these cases the Court of Appeal would have concluded that the convictions should be upheld.”

As things turned out, the Court of Appeal quashed these convictions – as well as the theft convictions – because it held that Post Office Ltd knew there were bugs with Horizon, but nevertheless insisted that the Horizon data was wholly reliable and accurate, when it had a legal duty to disclose to the defence any information which might assist the defence. As a consequence, these defendants did not get a fair trial and their convictions must be overturned.

“The only convictions not overturned were three cases in which the Court of Appeal found that Horizon data had not been an essential ingredient in the prosecution case,” said Winch.

This level of criticism of a prosecutor happens only very rarely in the appeal courts, he added.

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Tornado
By Tornado
28th Apr 2021 22:56

So The Post Office continued to defend its software even when it was clear to all that it was seriously defective. This is a scandalous miscarriage of justice fed by arrogance, privileged position and vanity.

Perhaps a timely reminder to HMRC that many people believe their MTD plans are seriously flawed and need to be thoroughly reviewed and tested before relying on these systems to perform correctly in general use.

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Replying to Tornado:
By Duggimon
11th Jan 2024 09:21

This is exactly the point I came to make. Everyone who interacted with the software was aware of and pointed out the flaws. The Post Office stood by it in full denial despite it being clear it was unfit for purpose, presumably due to the amount already invested in it.

HMRC is currently engaged in the exact same behaviour and while the per person impact might be less than what happened to the Sub Postmasters, HMRC's plans affect millions of people, not 900.

The government is parroting lines about learning from these mistakes, caring about those affected and wanting to make things right. How about demonstrating that you want to learn a lesson by actually learning a lesson.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By Dib
11th Jan 2024 13:02

It's not 900, it's 4,000+!

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Replying to Dib:
By Duggimon
11th Jan 2024 13:49

Thanks, not sure where I got 900 from, thought it was in the article above but it appears not!

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By Paul Crowley
29th Apr 2021 02:03

If this was something from the USA I would not be as disappointed as I am in the level of cover up and deceit.
Why are those involved in the cover up not held personally liable for the loss of reputation, freedom, and lives of those who suffered.
They knew and could not give a flying f**k

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Replying to Paul Crowley:
By Nick Graves
29th Apr 2021 11:38

Paul Crowley wrote:

If this was something from the USA I would not be as disappointed as I am in the level of cover up and deceit.
Why are those involved in the cover up not held personally liable for the loss of reputation, freedom, and lives of those who suffered.
They knew and could not give a flying f**k

I have a horrible suspicion that cover-up and deceit is now a feature, not a bug.

I believe it is now endemic and the fall-out will be catastrophic. And not limited to accounting matters.

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
29th Apr 2021 10:52

so, many many individuals, most with little or no accounting experience are in a situation where faulty software is imposed upon them by an overbearing monolithic organisation which - despite being told by them wot knows- insist that the software is the way to go and many years later it is proved wrong but denies all liability.
Fast forward 10 years to MTD for all.

Jail anyone?

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Replying to memyself-eye:
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By flightdeck
29th Apr 2021 21:51

Agreed. And it is very, very worrying. Who is next?

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By CJaneH
29th Apr 2021 11:07

I listened to the Radio 4 serial documentary last May and am listening to it again. I have also read newspaper reports. We know the systems had 'bugs' and I would assume that transactions were duplicated. I would like to know what access the Sub postmasters had to the data inputted from their post office. Reading between the lines it appears to me that.

A. There was no access to detailed daily transactions. There should have been a daily print out showing each transaction and distinguishing between cash, cheque and card. If this had been available the sub postmasters could have identified duplications and corrupted transactions.

B The advice seems to have been to check the cash balance they were suppose to have at a month end and then to count the cash and see if it matched. Far to long a period.

C The apparent shortfalls were so great I wonder if duplicated card transactions were treated as cash if not matched to a bank entry. I am assuming a card payment at a Post Office goes into a Post Office Bank.

Can anyone confirm to me if my assumptions are correct.

Nobody should be held responsible for apparent cash shortfalls if there is no system for them to record and control the cash.

I am not only angry with the Post Office to being so blind to its failings but also disappointed that General Media such as the Telegraph, Guardian & BBC and the specialised media aimed at accountants did not discover this much earlier.

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Replying to CJaneH:
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By hfiddes
29th Apr 2021 11:39

I'm still trying to understand all the problems but I think you're right on A. Plus it seems neither side had access to a full transaction history (you'd have thought the PO would have had that anyway - but it seems not!)
There is also the question of remote access. Initially, the PO denied there was any and then it turned out there was - so was there tampering?

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Replying to hfiddes:
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By CHIPD
30th Apr 2021 10:56

More likely incompetence. There were several documented instances of shortfall figures mysteriously doubling, which suggests that somebody somewhere (likely a Fujitsu IT person) was trying to correct the problem but put the adjusting entry through the wrong way round.

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Replying to CHIPD:
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By Paul Crowley
04th May 2021 17:10

The doubling fairly certainly confirms an attempt at correction done by IT.
IT still think in debits and credits from their bank account statements

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Replying to CJaneH:
David Winch
By David Winch
29th Apr 2021 12:17

From my experience of dealing with Post Offices at that time they 'balanced' weekly (not monthly). However there could be a lot of transactions in a week.
Also many of these outlets were sited within general shops selling, e.g. stationery, gifts, etc. There could be an issue segregating the Post Office takings from the shop takings.
This was particularly so in my experience where there were National Lottery sales as the NL terminal was often sited in the general shop area but NL takings were put through the PO counter. So if the shop did not pay the PO counter for the NL sales there would be a cash shortfall in the PO counter (which the subpostmaster would be required to make good).
So it was possible that there were accounting errors in the outlet which were producing the shortfalls - especially as the Horizon system was 100% reliable ....

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Replying to CJaneH:
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By kirstiej
11th Jan 2024 08:39

Re: point A, I also find this baffling. I have just started reading the Nick Wallis book and am hoping to find an answer, but I don’t understand how you could describe an accounting system as robust without this information.

Also, perhaps social media makes computer bugs and glitches more visible these days, but nobody would expect e.g. a bank feed to Xero etc. to be glitch free - you always need to reconcile. Presumably the post office integrates with many third parties - but the assumption seems to be that reconciliation wasn’t a necessary part of the process?

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Replying to CJaneH:
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By Cathy Milligan
11th Jan 2024 10:11

In response to B, as a former postmistress we used to do a weekly paper balance every wednesday evening. Then Horizon came in, it was still balanced each Wednesday but was to agree to the system reports. Personally we never had any issues, shortfalls were usually covered by the previous week's "overs" never, ever significant sums. Exceptionaly thankful that my little sub brance only had one terminal - there but for the grace of god go I.

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By Nina_Guinness
29th Apr 2021 11:09

Great article giving the in-depth story - the detail at the end is really good, it explains a lot about how this became such a mess.

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By whiteandco
29th Apr 2021 11:24

I have been watching this unfolding over the years with total horror. This is the ultimate result of the total reliance on computers and I believe is only the tip of the iceberg.

If it is worked out by a computer it must be right, so they say. Then when something goes wrong to try and speak to anyone with any form of sense is nigh impossible. It doesn't matter whether it is the Post Office, Banks, Utility Companies, BT or HMRC there is this layer of call centers all siloed from each other with no form of verbal communication and to break through those is truly a mission in itself. I know, because I have lost count of the hours wasted trying to do exactly that.

Last week I submitted my Client's Pllds for their 4 electric company cars and have just received the tax codes for the individuals concerned, all K codes. It would appear that the HMRC system could not process a 0% P11d, so has just taken 25% of the list price of the car as the benefit. When I asked whether or not I should submit P11ds for these cars, I was told yes, because it was still a benefit even though the benefit is 0% because next year the benefit increases to 1%.

The other day I realised that a corp tax refund had not been received - the Amended CT600, although received had not been processed.

Goodness knows how many people who import goods from the EU will submit correct VAT Returns. I have just submitted one and it took me a whole morning it entailed deferred VAT, postponed VAT, purchase of licences and goods under £135 and when I ran the detailed report, very few transactions appeared in the correct boxes. It would have been quicker and more accurate to have processed this manually. And it just gets worse as HMRC blindly march to achieve their utopian dream of MTD.

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Replying to whiteandco:
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By carnmores
04th May 2021 17:28

There is a problem with amended CT600s being processed. This should be sorted out asap?

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Replying to carnmores:
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By whiteandco
04th May 2021 17:36

Amongst all the others. When I asked if I would be advised of the resolution to the issues mentioned above, they said I should just keep checking my Agent's account. So far nothing more has been done. So I am guessing my queries are now in a never ending pile awaiting manual intervention.

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By derekgfrench
29th Apr 2021 12:30

I worked for 18 months at weekends in a community shop with two tills. One for the cafe and shop, the other was the sub-post office counter. The cafe till would be correct to the penny. The post office till cash, which we checked daily, could be £20 under in a day. Cash received for national lottery ticket sales, or paid out for lottery ticket prizes, didn't always appear in that days audit trail which was one complication. Sometimes we could reconcile the cash of the post office till, and other times we took money from the cafe side to top-up the post office till! That's one way for the post office to make money...

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By North East Accountant
29th Apr 2021 13:26

The Post Office is a total and utter disgrace and the people responsible should be held accountable.... but they won't be.

We had clients caught up in this and the impact on their lives has been nothing short of devastating.

The Post Office used their unlimited Government resources (taxpayers money) to try and cover up their own failings rather than accept responsibility for their mistakes. We see it all the time, Windrush, Hillsborough, etc where the Government (or their agencies) fail and cover up and do anything to not accept the consequences...god knows what we never hear about.

Imagine when HMRC's MTD computer gets some rubbish feed in from a third party direct to our personal tax account, and we're trying to prove it's wrong..... just like the sub-postmasters.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By GHarr497688
11th Jan 2024 13:33

I recall when the personal tax accounts came in I opened one for myself to try it.
HMRC had my code as earning something like £144000 a year when I only earn't 1/12 of that. They produced a code based on that. When I rang a queried it they denied it was wrong. Then when I looked at the PTA again it was correct. A clear similar case to what happened with Horizon. HMRC staff are indoctrinated with a culture of they are never in the wrong and a layman knows nothing. Often as is well documented they are rude and condescending to shut you up.

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By Brend201
29th Apr 2021 13:26

The postmasters settled in the High Court in December 2019 and it seems likely that a large chunk of the settlement amount went to the company that provided funding for their case (litigation funder Therium). The poor victims appear to have got very little compensation relative to the suffering and distress that they endured. Yet the perpetrators appear to have avoided all personal responsibility, although they undoubtedly reaped the benefits along the way.

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By AthenaSolutions
29th Apr 2021 15:55

What really gets me here is the delays. Justice delayed is justice denied. People had their health, finances, family life, mental health, self esteem, local reputations completely wrecked; some lost their liberty, some lost their lives. And for the victims, the lawyers got most of the settlement; so there has not even been financial reparation for this level of distress.
I cannot understand how this was allowed to fester this long . I accept that the the PO used its money and might to squash the victims, but I also cannot understand why it was left to the victims to form a support group 9 years after the Horizon implementation. Nothing from the CPS raised questions; no legal group helped them get together; and our profession equally did not pull together to go that extra mile.
Perhaps we accountants need a little self-reflection on this one also.

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Replying to AthenaSolutions:
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By North East Accountant
29th Apr 2021 17:45

Perhaps some in the profession did not go the extra mile but speaking for ourselves not only did we go an extra 100 miles we were there to carry our clients across the financial wasteland when they could no longer walk..... not getting paid for years on end either.

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By Mr J Andrews
30th Apr 2021 09:21

A very concise article which demonstrates that the miscarriage of justice owing to a flawed computer system has not been, nor never will be, fully resolved. The ''Powers That Be'' were aware of shortcomings but akin to the Emperor's New Clothes, a pretence was allowed to continue.
Both the HMRC hierarchy and the Profession are aware of the ridiculous shortcomings with MTD but have any lessons been learnt ? I think not.

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Tornado
By Tornado
30th Apr 2021 10:25

I think 'Claims against HMRC 4 You' will appear sooner or later as more people feel pushed into making errors simply because they do not understand the software they will be required to use.

In other circumstances (e.g. Driving a car) a test has to be passed and a licence/Certificate issued before you are deemed competent to drive a car. It should be a requirement that you will only be required to use MTD associated software if HMRC have trained you in its use and issued you with a certificate of competence.

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Replying to Tornado:
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By North East Accountant
30th Apr 2021 12:49

That's a great idea.

Speaking of cars we had a garage owner who got Sage (no training required he said "it's a doodle this accounting lark") and when he was bored like to make journal entries just for the fun of it. Not real ones just various adjustments.

One year there was 170 odd none of which had any substance at all.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By Paul Crowley
04th May 2021 17:22

Second hand car dealer bought sage
Same version of its a doddle
first and only complete year showed a bank balance of £500,000, true figure £20,000 other way

He is now on a trade specific software
All together now 'the trial balance does not balance' but only £300,000 out

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By carnmores
01st May 2021 16:59

And where was the DPP twiddling his thumbs ignoring a very important public issue. Sir Keir Starter hand back your knighthood

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Replying to carnmores:
By coops456
12th Jan 2024 17:02

carnmores wrote:

And where was the DPP twiddling his thumbs ignoring a very important public issue. Sir Keir Starter hand back your knighthood


These weren't PUBLIC prosecutions, Post Office has a prosecutorial power - which must surely now be stripped from it. If you want to blame DPPs, David Calvert-Smith and Ken Macdonald both predate Starmer during the period of prosecutions (DPP from 2008-2013).
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By Justin Bryant
10th Jan 2024 17:33
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By Open all hours
10th Jan 2024 18:56

Please can we drop the Horizon tag and use FUJITSU instead?
It’s the company that needs to get ready to pay the compensation not the project ident.

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Replying to Open all hours:
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By Rammstein1
11th Jan 2024 12:10

But it was the Post Office that elected to prosecute, not Fujitsu, and the Post Office that told the subpostmasters that it wasn't affecting anyone else.

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Replying to Rammstein1:
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By Open all hours
11th Jan 2024 15:15

There’s only a prosecution because funds went ‘missing’ which is initially on Fujitsu. They and The PO are both liable.
My main point was simply to stop them hiding behind ‘Horizon’.

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By JustAnotherUser
11th Jan 2024 08:36

This is another one that really annoys me, the same when people blame 'HMRC' , who was or is in charge, who is accountable... we need to replace entities with people and they will soon start to listen when its their names being bought up in every article.

Maybe we will get more than just a CBE being handed back.

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By kirstiej
11th Jan 2024 09:42

Am reading the book so maybe I will find out, but does anyone know whether the Post Office ever came up with an explanation for the discrepancy in Alan Bate’s Horizon terminal?

How can a system be described as ‘robust’ if it is apparently so difficult to audit? Accountancy isn’t quantum physics. There are always underlying transactions for every balance.

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By agknight
11th Jan 2024 10:46

I know I'm looking at this rather simply, but! Say you are keying your data into this Pandora called Horizon and an error arises, you would run back through the trail of transactions looking for an error or two. If a transaction list isn't even available, don't you put your hand up straight away and in writing later, to point out there is no transaction listing, therefore the computer can be rebutted? How has a court of law overlooked needing proof for a conviction (innocent until proved guilty) - let alone the investigators, prosecution and defence leading up to any court action?

Secondly if you have a problem, you hone down and keep separate independent records to match back to Horozon for a time period - a week it seems. This may be onerous, but the sums involved are huge.

I often marvel at the Greeks inventing double entry bookkeeping. Why were accountants involved in designing Horizon not incorporating those principles?

Like others here I see similarities and omens towards MTD here, We have an infestation of idiots at the top of large organisations with no grasp of practical reality. How did they get there and how do we flush them out?

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By Justin Bryant
11th Jan 2024 10:58

"How did they get there?"

You occasionally read stories about people who lie on their CV about their prior experience/qualifications and get hired to run a hospital etc. and don’t get found out for many years until their total lack of prior experience/qualification is accidentally discovered.

This happens because many of the so-called experienced/qualified people in senior public service jobs are so incompetent that it's very easy for anyone without any talent at all to fake it to make it in these jobs (and more often than not they do a far better job as they are likely to be less prone to well-known management problems such as groupthink etc.).

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By whiteandco
11th Jan 2024 12:15

Isn't it called The Peter Principle, people being promoted to their level of incompentency. Once they get to that position, they tend to change jobs frequently before they get found out.

Working with small businesses, I cannot tell you the number of times a small owner gets the opportunity of employing an ex-CEO or similar and thinks the person will take them into the big time, only to find out that once the big fish is taken out of it's water, it's useless.

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By kirstiej
12th Jan 2024 15:50

I get the impression that this is the approach Alan Bates took back in the early 2000’s and it’s why he refused to sign the accounts and why he was sacked.

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By Arbitrary
15th Jan 2024 14:22

I think Italian, not Greek, invention of double entry bookkeeping in perhaps late 13th Century. Luca Pacioli is usually credited with the invention, his book first published in 1494.

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By robwillett
11th Jan 2024 10:54

As a retired software engineer of nearly 50 years experience, it was pretty obvious to me that Fujitsu MUST have known about this. I dug out some of the technical reports and it was obvious that basic software methods were not used. It was built by amateurs. For example: there was a procedure that was supposed to reverse a transaction, but it was coded with a plus sign rather than a minus sign. So if you called it with £20 it would add £20 rather than subtract it. This should NEVER have got through the most basic testing. I just don't understand how this could be allowed to happen! Huge cover up by Fujitsu.

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By KIKISROSSIDES
11th Jan 2024 11:00

I had a client that was wrongly convicted and was sent to prison using this infamous software. He had always maintained he had done nothing wrong but despite this he was convicted and sent to prison. He has since died because of this whole disgusting affair. He was divorced and living with a partner who was helping in running the sub post office. What if anything or anyone can do in such a situation?

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By Mike.bugler
11th Jan 2024 11:18

I find it extraordinary that so far we have not been made aware of any audit trail of cash transactions being produced by the Horizon system and if there was any attempt to validate them. Furthermore of any any attempt by competent person or accountant to shadow transactions which would have been easily possible at a smaller Post Office. This being the case the judiciary as well as defending lawyers are guilty of incompetency in not ensuring the system was tested. I feel there is too much arrogancy in the pursuit of cost savings and illusory profit. There should be harsh penalties to be bourne by anyone responsible similar to those bourne by Postmasters. Any investigations should not take longer than 12 months. The Post Office and/or Fujitsu executives should be heavily penalised for all the lies that were told especially when they were put forward at Judicial proceedings. As a qualified accountant I can't begin to express my extreme anger at the revelations coming to the fore.

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By robwillett
11th Jan 2024 11:26

It is also amazing that nobody questioned what appeared to be a sudden increase in criminality (not) related to this. I have worked in outfits that operate a 'ship it, get the dosh and we will deal with the fallout later' policy, only they don't because the next project looms and the cycle repeats.

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By kirstiej
12th Jan 2024 14:12

Listening to Stephen Bradshaw’s evidence today, it’s not clear that any one did try to find the errors. He was described as an ‘investigator’ but apparently had no technical expertise in accounting or IT, and his role seems to have been more debt collection/bailiff.

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By MatthewBalch
11th Jan 2024 11:29

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By Open all hours
11th Jan 2024 15:17

Leaves me speechless as well.

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By whiteandco
11th Jan 2024 12:27
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