"MPs to grill Post Office and Fujitsu execs on Horizon IT scandal after employees jailed over accounting errors"
Sub-postmasters are not employees of the Post Office - they are more like franchisees.
MPs are set to drag Post Office and Fujitsu executives before UK Parliament as part of a probe into the Horizon IT system scandal. This morning Parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee announced that it will haul former and current CEOs of the Post Office in to be grilled by MPs over their roles in …
I believe that they already proved that the system was known flawed, as to the offenders explaining why they stood by, that is of less concern than their actual actions. Namely of acting to prevent the truth coming to light.
I do not hold out much hope that the current government will introduce any justice, they are more likely to just replace some of the offending group with their own people (who cannot get their own high pay employment otherwise) and say the problem is now resolved.
You only have to look at the current government's policy over the number of ESA claimants that took their lives after being cut off to know that cover-ups are their stock in trade.
I may have missed it being proven in a court of law (I believe the system was very flawed from knowing someone affected), in the UK to see justice, this needs to be proven in a court of law.
As it says in the article, the committee is chaired by a Labour MP, in the UK they are in opposition, so have a motive to get to the facts.
The ESA is not part of the committee's remit.
Just read part of that judgement. Quite an easy read. I especially love para 929:
This approach by the Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred, at least so far as the witnesses called before me in the Horizon Issues trial are concerned. It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat.
So the Post Office basically stuck their fingers in their ears and went "La La La, can't hear you" to any suggestions that their system was broken.
I hope the ones jailed have been given at least £1mil each for time spent and knowing they'll struggle to find work again most likely. And the mental health issues its probably created.
Fujitsu were also evolved in a failed IT NHS project over 10 years ago but I don't know enough of the details to comment further.
I dont think its right that a private organisation is allowed to hand evidence to the CPS in the first place? When it comes to evidence in criminal cases there are high thresholds on how the police handle evidence and they breaches of that evidence chain can result in that evidence being thrown out from the case. Yet I doubt Fujitsu/Post Office would have had to follow the same rules as the police they could pick and choose what they put forward omitting anything that might undermine there own case.
Royal Mail Legal Services, the successor to previous incarnations of Post Office Investigations, is recognised by the MoJ as a private prosecutor. They're probably more clued up than the CPS and certainly present cases with evidence gained under the same rules as the police, which is where most of their investigators come from anyway.
That Royal Mail Legal Services/Post Office Investigations were able to act as investigators and prosecutors is part of the problem. When a "loss" was discovered, the Post Office seized control of the post office concerned. This meant that the organisation which had procured and was running a faulty accounting and POS system was holding all the evidence and then conducted both the investigation and the prosecution, despite being an involved party. They simply told police that their system had uncovered the loss and that this was evidence that the sub-postmaster had stolen the funds. Had the investigations and prosecutions been conducted by independent bodies, it is likely that the issues with Horizon would have been uncovered sooner, prosecutions halted and over 500 innocent people would not have had their lives ruined, in order that Post Office and Fujitsu bosses could save face.
How is it possible that they had similar errors in 450 branches and instead of thinking "something's wrong with the system " they came up with "450 people have all of a sudden, all at the same time but completely independently decided to perform the exact same fraud"?
Someone at the Post Office and/or Toshiba must have realised this was a software issue and either kept mum or deliberately fudged things to cover their ass.
If the legal system worked, whoever was involved should be a guest of her Majesty for a long long time
I think he framed it wrong. The issue is not with the provision of evidence itself, it's that it's considered authorative without any further checks.
If you report a neighbour for nicking something, you expect the police to investigate, and not for them and the courts to accept your accusation as 100% true.
I've been involved in projects for many years now where Fujitsu have been in a position to either supply a service or us being reliant upon them and all I can say is I have no idea why allows them to win projects.
Clearly the answer is cost, they are 'cheap', but they aren't in real terms.
I really wish Fujitsu and Capita would never won a public project ever again, the UK would be a safer place.
Agreed, however you need to look a little closer to understand why they did
1. Allowing companies and individuals to make payments to political parties in order to obtain privileged status
2. Government giving decision making positions to people who lacked the basic technical understanding required of the position.
The list of what could be at best called "failures" is endless just as is the corruption and disinterest that powered it.
Needless to say, this situation will continue whilst power is not balanced against responsibility and that also applies to the people who gave the corrupt the power to corrupt.
In other words, it is all your fault, you could have done something about it but chose instead the easy way and this is the inevitable outcome, well done you
I worked for a certain outsouring company and having come from a one-man-does-all shop to a global outsourcer was a shock. The golden rule you were taught in oursourcing was do nothing to fix any problem no matter what unless a) the customer asks b) the customer has paid c) the customer has paid extra for a PM to assess the request and draw up a plan to assign resources and you are one of those resources. If you're then assigned, you do the bare minimum requested and nothing more AND you never, ever communicate direct to the customer! I left after 6 months in search a job with more challenges in a shop that would reward proactive hard work.
The shops I've been in where an oursourcer has been pulled into the company I know exactly what the service will be like and I know exactly what's happening on the other side of that fence.
"So far there has been no suggestion that any individual from the Post Office or Fujitsu will face criminal charges for their part in the scandal."
Both the Judge and the DPP have referred information regarding the Fujitsu witnesses to the Police for investigation. In the normal course of events I would say that would be the end of it, but with an annoyed Queen's Bench Division Judge pushing things along I think some sphincters will be twitching at Fujitsu. This isn't a case of a corporate fudging the game but investigating individuals for perjury and perverting the course of justice. Convictions for either inevitably attract prison sentences.
It is worth remembering that at least one of the wrongly convicted sup-postmasters committed suicide after they lost their business and their home. Someone died because bosses at the Post Office and Fulitsu didn't want to admit their mistakes and were prepared to have their experts lie in court, over and over again. Some of these f*ckers should go to jail.
If you listen carefully you can hear a whole lot of childlike Post Office and Fujitsu management running around their offices trying to do anything they can to absolve themselves of any blame or responsibility.
If this does end up in court, I do hope both companies and relevant staff get absolutely crucified for what they have done here.
The "computer says no" is a common theme too for other Govt agencies.
If you flag up a problem that stops you filing a return, for example. they will hide behind (what they think is) technical jargon, and use it to pull the wool over the judges eyes in the courts too.
I am amazed the Postmasters succeeded in their case, well if you can call it succeeded, a 10k average payout for many years of inability to work ANYWHERE with a criminal record is flabberghasting.
Expungement isn't really expungement though. Google a guy's name and the first result will inevitably be what they were convicted of. That the sentence was later overturned will be somewhere near the bottom of page 1 after all the mirror stories, and that someone else was later sent up the nick for having provided false evidence that saw the first guy done in wrongly will be on page 5.
I.E. it'll never get seen. And no, "right to be forgotten" is not an answer, as stopping a prospective employer from using a VPN to do their googling from a U.S. IP is impossible.
What *would* help, perhaps, is an official document the wrongly convicted person may produce attached to their C.V., containing the details of the allegation against them which was expunged and a threat of official penalties if the invalid accusation is used to deny them employment. Maybe.
Far better would be something like the U.S. witness protection program where their more-or-less real details are attached to a fake name which they use to apply for whatever; and once they've gotten the job, if any, their real name comes out, along with the details of why it was attached to falsely prejudicial news that likely would have resulted in their C.V. being binned summarily, and a warning stern enough to turn an H.R. Drone's face ashen if they're subsequently dismissed for their officially-sanctioned part in applying under a false identity.
You may be surprised to know that the errors are STILL occurring and Post Masters are still being stitched up. This is not just about what has happened it is all about the absolutely shite system that is in place that appears to have no audit trail for when admins go in and mess about with stuff.
Fujitsu should be taken to the cleaners for this and an audit done as to where else they have anything related to this. Post Office manglement are partially to blame but the Fujitsu, regulators and politicians have sat on the arses sage in the knowledge that they, their bonuses and lives are not affected. People have lost their lives for this.....
Private Eye reported it very early on and diagnosed it as a software problem - but the Post Office refused to even consider that it might have been their fault and didn't even investigate the issue - they just claimed that because their accounting software showed a discrepancy then it was evidence that postmasters everywhere were stealing.
But it's a corporate problem really, we need to punish the corporate officials be making them retire with a golden parachute - maybe they could get a new job managing Brexit now.
"...the Post Office refused to even consider that it might have been their fault and didn't even investigate the issue..."
In fact, the Post Office commissioned a fairly comprehensive study of Horizon by independent specialists. When they found out that the report they had purchased was not favourable, the Post Office tried to bury it - but the company published it anyway. (I don't have a link to hand but I bet the report is still online somewhere). It means that, for the majority of their prosecutions, the Post Office already had evidence of the problems with Horizon but continued to tell police and courts that Horizon was infallible.
Hardly a punishment. Fire them with extreme prejudice then charge them with fraud, perjury and perverting the course of justice. There's ample evidence so secure convictions.
In other words, nuke them from orbit.
I remember beforeI left the UK chatting to the two local sub postmasters local to me.
They were both Sihks working very hard at all hours with their families in small businesses, very nice very honest people who were beside themselves with worry over threats of prosecution for accounting irregularities.
The eldest son of one of the families was in IT and I remember him explaining what was wrong with the system and was trying to get through to the right people at the post office but with mo luck.
I hope tinally after all these years something approaching justice is done for all those adversely affected by the criminal behaviour of those at the Post office and Fujitsu who are responsible.
It would've been interesting for a post office to set up a few high quality cameras pointing directly at the till, the cashier, the customer etc.
As soon as a discrepancy was found on a day replay it all and manually balance everything to show there was a problem. Useful evidence of it (or I may be over simplifying the problem?).
In any respects for prosecutions to be sought for so many people when there had not been previous complaints and they knew how heavy handed the results of discrepancies were should've made those in charge realise something may not be right with the software.
I mean, I can;t believe that there is any software developer of software project manager who would ever state "it's impossible that there a bug in the software, it must be the fraud - send them to jail"
part of the problem was that you HAD to use their software, even if you were part of another company (like WH Smiths) that might be running their own perfectly decent software package. Another problem was that you had to click 'these accounts are fully reconciled' at the end of each day, even when there were glaring errors (and meant the next day's slate started clean)... they clicked 'reconciled' therefore any discrepancies must be fraud!
Exactly this. If there was a discrepancy, the franchisee *had* to accept it before they could start trading the following day. The only alternative was to stop trading. And because they'd clicked on "I accept this reconciliation", their case for having the discrepancy investigated was lost.
We all remember the "cold fusion" story from a couple of decades ago - some physicist couldn't explain where the energy in an experiment had come from, so they decided there must have been a nuclear fusion reaction at room temperature. This was similar: there had been no daily reconciliation before Horizon, so when the Post Office introduced it and found discrepancies, they deemed that the only cause could be fraud.
Most of the settlement from the Post Office has been consumed in legal costs. Costs which were incurred because of their and Fujitsu's intransigence and alleged perjury. Without doubt this is the worst miscarriage of justice this century.
> It would've been interesting for a post office to set up a few high quality
> cameras pointing directly at the till, the cashier, the customer etc.
They had keyloggers, which achieved the same thing.
If the keylogger data had been looked at they would have seen that the sub postmasters had done nothing wrong. But that was a lot of work. Instead they relied on numbers from their management accounts system, which was buggy.
"Software is full of bugs these days - is it because we are very good at finding them nowadays, or are we crappy coders?"
They're are a lot of good coders about but they're not given the time our resources to put thing right, their management simply insists of release, release, release.
The problem is that everyone jumped on Agile and very few understood how to do it properly, so you have Mickey Mouse project managers bleating on about agile this and that, then having daily code drops but the wrong kind of developers for that short time scale release cycles, the code just gets more and more mangled on each daily release cycle until they just don't give a toss anymore. Wrong coders with bad project managers can only result in bad code.
If there was real justice, the Post Office and Fujitsu people who oversaw the prosecutions of innocent sub-postmasters (when they knew Horizon had problems) should have the same done to them: loss of business/career, savings, homes - along with the same public humiliation.
So far there has been no suggestion that any individual from the Post Office or Fujitsu will face criminal charges for their part in the scandal.
Well there you go, just as predicted from the last reg story about horizons and the post office.
Bet Fujitsu and the post office have been busy shredding / deleting anything that was internally critical of the software, whether it was a senior manager or a lowly dev, just to show they were 'unaware' that the software could be faulty.
In any case, I think those postmasters sent to jail have a good case for malicious prosecution, especially if the post office are forced to disclose anything currently being shredded/deleted
Not sure they can just shred docs and then proclaim to know nothing when giving evidence . The Horizon system was ran and managed by the apps team (BAS) with accountability sitting on the UK board and then into Japan. Minutes of UK board meetings would need to be destroyed and that is unlikely .
Surely a charge of Corporate manslaughter should be brought, this debacle has ruined peoples lives and their reputation which will never be repaired. No amount of compensation would fix this for me. As for Fujitsu they should be barred from any public sector contract for at least 10 years and heavily fined to boot.
OK, so money disappeared, missing from the daily accounts; large sums of it too. But money never disappears, particularly when it is represented by numbers on a screen; 2 + 2 always equals 4. If the software says the money is not there then the software itself has taken the money; if the software has taken the money, then the money has to arrive somewhere. In the past, scams, for this is really what we are describing here, were well known, the 25th supermarket checkout being an excellent example. If money disappeared from their accounts it had to end up somewhere else; so, where did the money go?
Yes, I do understand that the missing money may never have been under the control of the sub postmasters; that it was an illusion created by the Horizon software. So who had reason to lose money via the software? As I see it, there is a very much deeper problem that is not being addressed here. Software showing losses from the tills, against sales over the post office counters; where it is now established that the sub postmasters were not stealing from those tills, means that money was placed into the till, but the software for the till showed a proportion was not there at the end of the day; presumably by adding to the sales total within the software; above that physically entered into the tills by the post office staff. If the software added to the till total, and the accounts of the head office showed such losses; then someone has to have had reason to allow the software to both at one and the same time, show increased turnover, (relative to the losses recorded), and make the losses disappear, by deliberately accusing the sub postmasters of stealing the money, when they arrived at the head office.
That is fraud. Someone steals a reward for increased sales; when the increase was a result of, (deliberately? ), faulty software, then blames the failure to actually deliver the increased sales, as cash return to head office, on to the theft of the increase by the sub postmasters. That is a deliberate act of criminal fraud and they MUST be prosecuted.
My understanding is that the money was never missing, the system has a very dodgy method of reporting transactions back to the central server. It worked something like this.
1. customer withdraws money from Post Office.
2. local system logs the transaction as being completed
3. local system attempts to send that information back to the server
4. if there was a connection failure during the reporting back of the transaction, local system gave up
5. At some point, the local system then deletes the local logs (possibly immediately after the aborted transaction upload).
Therefore, the discrepancy are valid transactions which the local software didn't push to the server properly, at the end of the day, the tills would appear to be down on cash compared to what the server was expecting by the sum of the transactions which didn't get reported back to the server.
Post Office / Fujitsu then started trying to reclaim the difference in money that their own software had created out of thin air.
This. The previous Reg artlicles have comments on it. The Post office have a holding account/central account for either all or certain creditors (post stamps in one pot, BBC license in another, VAT or car tax in another etc).
Some or all of these had more money in than required (as you chase deficiencies, not over payments... as where is the incentive to pay back money when your making a profit *and* you *know* you were correct to take that extra money).
So I forget the figure, but someone commented and figured out how much money they were also making on the back hand underhanded extra cash they were getting and not having to pay out of the proper payment accounts!
PS, there may have been times it was over paid, compared to deficiencies. It depends on how the software and in what order it did it's transfer/confirmation/handshakes. For example, if the money was transferred from the local till, to the central office, but the connection "failed" locally but accepted centrally, then locally it lost the money, but the software backed out and decided it never did pay central office... and decides you now need to pay them twice! Massive failure in programming, but possibly what happened, and why it favoured deficits over overpayments.
If anyone is interested > https://www.postofficetrial.com/ < is the place to go to for all the information on the total and utter F**K UPS who have been in charge of the PO and Fujitsu fiasco. And Private Eye for keeping the heat on.
Not pretty reading, too many were forced into bankruptcy, prison (1 even for murder which it is highly unlikely that he committed) and one took her life because of the shame of being charged with a crime she didn't commit, all on evidence, most given under oath, which was subsequently found to be false.
Why will Fujitsu get an easy ride? Well, obviously nothing to do with all the major supply and maintenance contracts that they have with the NHS, MoD, Fire Brigade, Police, and many others. Why, just imagine the shame of those in power who gave these contracts to Fujitsu if questions started to be asked about other problems - not of course since there are any with faulty programs, systems and hardware, and certainly not brown envelopes/back pockets....
The Register will be reporting the main Parliamentary evidence session later this month, which is expected to include a Fujitsu exec.
The Chief Executive for Toilet Cleaning no doubt.
So far there has been no suggestion that any individual from the Post Office or Fujitsu will face criminal charges for their part in the scandal.
Why the hell not?!?
They accused innocent people of theft, threatened these people with prosecution and in same cases had people prosecuted and all because there IT system didn't work correctly.
Every prosecution in regards to this complete fiasco needs to be reviewed immediately.
All the money they wrongly took from people with the threat of prosecution should be given back with interest.
If at all possible criminal charges brought against the ex CEO, his management team and anyone involved in covering this up.
This covered the topic rather nicely some 3 weeks ago. I recall there was testimony from Fujitsu insiders which iirc stated that they could remotely access the accounts at any time, without the post office counter staff knowing, and that this might well cause errors if transactions were taking place at the same time. This was contrary to evidence given in court that no-one, apart from the user, had access to the account.
Well worth a listen.