back to article We're no longer helping UK Post Office persecute postal workers with our shonky system, says Fujitsu

Fujitsu has told UK Parliament it is no longer supplying evidence to the Post Office to convict sub-postmasters of criminal offences invented by the firm's Horizon IT system. In a letter to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Fujitsu said: "[W]e have now stopped the provision of any new witness evidence to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “The problems with Horizon 1 and 2 were not apparent to the Board, which was assured by Fujitsu and trusted colleagues at Post Office that there were not - and there had not been - any systemic problems with the system.”

    Even though there is documented evidence that you knew full well that a) errors could occur and b) Fujitsu employees could modify the database remotely without the knowledge of the postmasters.

    Has she told a single shred of truth over the last twenty years?

    1. Blane Bramble

      Standard practise going on here:

      PO bod: "We had no reason not to trust the system, we relied on Fujitsu and they said it was all good"

      Fujitsu bod: "We only supplied raw data as we were asked to do, we're not responsible for the conclusions"

      Jail the lot of them.

      1. DavCrav

        Indeed. Both are evidently lying through their teeth. It was both of their faults, so both can be jailed for it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And where has the wonderful Paula Vennells ended up? Why, that bloated dumping ground for disgraced executives everywhere, the NHS, of course!

      £60k salary per annum over 5 years for attending a few board meetings, all courtesy of the British taxpayer.

      Of course, that's chump change in comparison to the £3.7 million she earned in the six prior to her ignominious exit from the Post Office.

      1. julian_n

        You forgot the bit about being awarded a gong for service to the Post Office.

        Listening to the excellent R4 series, she lied to Parliament - I won't hold my breath she'll get prosecuted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And to top it all, she's a part time vicar. Lectures people from the pulpit on a Sunday.

        2. hoola Silver badge

          Can gongs be withdrawn? If so then regardless of any other outcome it should. People accused of theft and fraud took their own lives, lost their livelihoods and has destroyed families.

          That is not exactly "Service to the Post Office.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I think a knighthood was withdrawn a couple of years ago, although I can't remember the details.

            Edit: It was 12 years ago.


            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              They should resort to more traditional methods of doing away with a knight, and stage a duel.

              1. JJKing

                They should resort to more traditional methods of doing away with a knight, and stage a duel.

                Hopefully between the about to be deposed gong recipient and a nice shiny fully crewed and armed tank. Now that would be justice.

  2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    And hopefully the summary

    Will read as follows:

    "There were systemic failing in the Horizons program regarding the amount of money put through the system compared to the amount horizons was saying had been put through

    Post office managers then took the statements from horizons and wrongly inferred that theft had happened from the post office by sub-postmasters totally innocent of any such theft.

    Fujitsu then supplied evidence under oath to the court that such theft had in fact happened with the result that innocent men and women were either threatened with jail, or in fact , sent to jail.

    Fujitsu was aware of problems with the horizons system and had remotely corrected problems with post office accounts even though fujitsu said that remote access could not happen

    Post office managers were informed that the data supplied by horizons could be and was faulty, yet decided to press on with charging innocent postmasters with theft, and forcing them to either pay back the 'missing' money of being jailed for theft.

    The recommendation of this inquiry is that the managers at fujitsu and the post office be charged with contempt of court, lying under oath, and perjury"

    However the chances of any report looking like that are slightly less than 1% with the report white washing the managers with the required phrases of "new procedures put in place" and "the guilty men have retired/moved on so would be unfair to charge them"

    Next case

    Old squaddies from northern ireland who may have committed crimes 45 yrs ago......

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: And hopefully the summary

      I think we all know that no-one is ever going to be properly held to account for this mess, but it may have had something to do with the latest announcement that many senior managers are going to be sent on their way. Good riddence to them, but I'd be happier if proper charges were brought, with convictions.

      It's the sub-postmaster's families that have been destroyed over the years I feel sorry for.

      1. nematoad

        Re: And hopefully the summary

        "...that there is a public summary of the failings that occurred at Post Office Ltd.”

        Presumably omitting the fact that the government* as the sole shareholder has a seat on the board and still did nothing about this scandal.

        * Labour, the Coalition and the Tories are equally guilty of an abdication of their duty to safeguard public funds and to hold the executive board of the Post Office to account. There is a lot to cover up in all this and you can bet your life that no effort will be spared to whitewash this whole affair

        1. VulcanV5

          Re: And hopefully the summary

          Not just the Government. A wannabe Prime Minister (remember that glorious pre-election moment:hey: I could be Prime Minister soon!) called Jo Swinson, vacuous leader of even more vacuous political party the Liberal Democrats, was on the Post office Board and well aware of everything that was happening to Britain's subpostmasters.

          And to think: Jo Swinson could've been Prime Minister. . .

          1. SundogUK Silver badge

            Re: And hopefully the summary

            No, Jo Swinson was never going to be Prime Minister.

    2. Chris G

      Re: And hopefully the summary

      Re the squaddies from NI; even when thousands of bikers did a run to Downing St it was ignored by the media, particularly the beeb, because a few squaddies who served their country in what was in reality a police action not a war, don't have the clout or membership of the old boys club the way that Vennels and Fujitsu do.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: And hopefully the summary

        The comparision I'm making is that post office managers f***ed over their staff with finings and jailings and will more than likely be allowed to walk since 'too much time has passed' or 'retired early'

        Where as old squadies from operation Banner get dragged into court regardless of the time since the alledged offense....

        1. Teiwaz

          Re: And hopefully the summary

          Where as old squadies from operation Banner get dragged into court regardless of the time since the alledged offense....

          You know why, don't you?

          It's 'cause the interested public in NI has kept up the pressure doggedly.

          It's up to the concerned UK citizens to keep the pressure on the Gov over the P.O. managements behaviour, and keep the demand up that the management responsible are held to account.

          But you expect Whitewash from Whitehall, and you'll shrug and 'move on' as they want after a coat or two is licked over the stain.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

    Quote: Vennells said: “The problems with Horizon 1 and 2 were not apparent to the Board, which was assured by Fujitsu and trusted colleagues at Post Office that there were not - and there had not been - any systemic problems with the system.”


    Money is missing -- and Vennells asks Fujitsu????? Whatever happened to the Post Office auditors??? I haven't seen ANY mention of auditors or an audit committee anywhere.


    Is this not very strange? What else are we not being told?

    1. nematoad

      Re: Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

      " I haven't seen ANY mention of auditors..."

      Ah they were there alright. It's just that they were busy subjecting sub-postmasters to the third degree and forcing them to plead guilty to things like false accounting and theft, all without the presence of a lawyer.

      These people had the title of "Auditor" but in reality they were just thugs and bullies throwing their weight about.

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

        Auditors as personified by the late great Terry Pratchett. ?

    2. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

      One suspects that the auditors, when they were allowed to audit, did in fact find that there was a

      problem - but since such a finding would be inconvenient to mangelement, the auditors would be told to go and do something else. Wasn't that a suggestion in the recent Panorama program on the subject ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

        The Post Office engaged a firm of forensic accountants (Second Sight, IIRC). When it became clear they were going to find something uncomfortable, the Post Office started becoming more difficult in their dealings with them, and eventually stopped dealing with them.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The problems with Horizon 1 and 2 were not apparent to the Board,"

    They seem to have been apparent to anybody else who followed the saga, or at least not the actual problems but that there appeared to have been problems.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Yes - the sheer number of cases should have raised a huge red flag.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been thinking

    Many, many years ago I worked as a deputy slave in a now defunct chain of Off Licenses. We had an idientified stock loss problem and the obvious implication was that one of us was half inching it. After numerous stock takes, discussions, discliplinaries and such like my manager was dismissed. I was off to other things that culminated in the IT career I am in now.

    One wonders now if perhaps their EPOS system was less good at tracking stock and sales than it might have been. I don't remember whether Fujitsu were involved at all and it is probably late onset paranoia but ...

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Been thinking

      I had a summer job in a supermarket X years ago. During training we were told our checkout could be randomly audited to make sure we weren't on the take. Sounded reasonable: We were handling money. One day I was audited. I was a bit nervous, but shrugged it off as it was just a random event as told in our training.

      An hour later I got audited again. A short while later I got audited again. And later on a fourth time. All in one shift

      During the last audit I asked what was going on, as I thought these were supposed to be once in a blue moon events.

      I was told that the computer consistently had my checkout as being out by a certain amount. Yet the checkout next to me was out, by the same, but opposite, amount.

      I never found out what was wrong - but I never got fired so clearly they didn't blame me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Been thinking

        I too worked in an off-licence and its was pretty normal for us to be a few pence up or down.

        It usually worked out over the course of a week or so.

        That said the one time it was bang on was after a rep visited to demo his wares (we were more upmarket than your regular cider seller, including booze now collectable to the tune of thousands...) and after 10 samples for all members of staff, we all very carefully, very slowly and very drunkenly counted the till to the perfect amount. It still counted up perfectly the next day.

        Pretty sure that was the only time it was so correct.

        Anon to protect the drunk

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Been thinking

          There’s a large fast food outlet where the stock figures are after way out. Think two full 7.5t lorries worth, or the entire consumption for a busy week.

          It’s like magic! It’s so obvious the system figures are wrong that nobody will accept it. The reason? They’d have to admit to not understanding how the system works and ignoring the problem for years.

          The same system needs almost daily remote manipulation by ITSC to get the day to close with never and explanation how tills can be both over and under by a whole day’s takings. It’s accepted, because everyone is so far removed from being able to question it.

          Perhaps Horizon is the same as the abomination behind those touch screens that everyone one here gets excited about when they snap a Bork! picture. You’d wet yourselves if you ever got to see bits of string holding it all together in the kitchen and office.

          Yes. I used to work in IT in an industry where the integrity of the figures and transactions literally would result in deaths if we dropped the ball.

          1. BebopWeBop

            Re: Been thinking

            In this case, the consequence were both death and imprisonment for some.

        2. Rhuadh

          Re: Been thinking

          Worked as a manager in retail jewellery for a large national company back in the days before EPOS tills. At a regional managers meeting, along with the Area Manager and CEO, the AM was giving his usual pep speech to impress the CEO with his management skills, when he digressed to glowingly commend one of the managers for never being short or over in his daily takings records. Much hilarity, and even the CEO started grinning. A puzzled AM had to have it explained to him that the manager concerned was running a box, where overages were put aside until needed to top up a shortage. It should be noted that the amounts involved were normally less than 50p and balanced out over a period of time, but it was impossible to have consistently exact records. Anytime the missing amount was near a £5 or £10, then someone was on the take, and security precautions like having double checking change etc. was put into effect.

          1. Outski

            Re: Been thinking

            "but it was impossible to have consistently exact records"

            Not necessarily. Many many years ago, I worked in the food hall of a moderately well-known department store in London (no, not that one) whilst on vacation from university. Over the Easter vacation, I had control of the island (a separate bit away from the main food hall) selling Easter eggs and other seasonal goodies. On one day, I was down by one penny, which I'd dropped on the floor while making change. The next day, I was up one penny, having located it under the till podium first thing. Not bad, considering a daily take over over two grand.

            The next two days, someone covered my lunch break, and I was down about twenty quid each time...

            I did love working on the confectionery counter there, we were actively encouraged to sample the stock, so we could make recommendations :o)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Been thinking

        After a career change I’m now a manager for a significant international fast food outlet. We constantly have massive stock losses of ‘non-desirable’ items. We’ve gone through CCTV, triple blind counted deliveries, chillers, freezers, etc.. There has to be a system error but because nobody higher up the ranks has a clue how to interpret what they are seeing they keep insisting it must be theft or wastage. When I point out that we know the stock arriving matches the delivery and order records, and that the losses equate to TWO whole 7.5t lorry’s full and we might just have noticed that being pushed passed us nobody is capable of seeing the blindingly obvious. There’s blind faith in the system, the same system that everyone knows ITSC have to nurse and manipulate on a daily basis.

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          Re: Been thinking

          These annecedotes all sound the same as those idiots who blindly follow sat nav and don't bother to look at their environment: A total and blind trust in technology.

        2. Intractable Potsherd

          Re: Been thinking

          "Automation bias" (the device must be right) is a real thing. I'm currently writing an expert witness report in a case where, if people actually did their jobs properly it would be obvious that the disputed report makes sense only with thought. Instead of that, the reputations (and possibly careers) of several people are wrongly on the line.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Been thinking

        After we bought out another, much bigger, company I was restructuring the ICT department. The DB admin left as that role was no longer needed.

        However, it came to the end of the month and the relevant audit was not adding up. It could be up or down by a few thousand. I kept being told that "DB_Admin" was brilliant at fixing this sort of issue and finding out where the discrepancy was.

        I looked into it and found an interesting SQL able that calculated the final month end audit. At the end of the calculation was lines of additional code along the lines of Total +1813 -326 +871 +4563 -1453 etc

        Basically, whatever the amount out was he just hard coded in that month to correct it.

    2. HarryBl

      Re: Been thinking

      The first job I had was in a bank back in the 60s. It was that long ago we were still using pounds, shillings and pence.

      After we closed for the day we'd count all the cash. If we were more than 15 shillings (75 pence) out nobody went home until it was sorted.

      If we were short it was bad enough but if we were over it was a major visit from head office deal as we had money that actually belonged to one of our customers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like Australia's robodebt, except the Australian government KNEW the process was flawed from day one, yet continued to persecute recipients who couldn't afford to fight back.

  7. TDog


    Neither group ended their comment with

    "And the falsely imprisoned should be immediately released on bail pending a revue of their convictions. We will fund their legal support and pay full compensation where it is determined they had been imprisoned through no fault of their own".

    1. Evil Genius

      Re: Strange

      “The taxpayer will fund their legal support and pay full compensation where it is determined they had been imprisoned through no fault of their own, while those responsible will continue with zero consequences".


    2. Scott Tracy

      Re: Strange

      So...Fujitsu say they have "stopped the provision of any new witness evidence to the Post Offce". What, they have finally got round to it after all these years ??? And is that after one final (unmentioned) data dump ? The letter also says the provision of witness evidence "should never have happened". But it did - repeatedly.

      As for the Post Office ex CEO (what about previous CEOs ?) she says (in essence) we relied on what we were told and it wasn't really our role to oversee this stuff anyway. She also says she does not accept "any personal criminal conduct" - actually I think the courts will be the judge of that (if it ever gets that far).

      And the best we can manage as a nation is a Review to identify a few lessons which can safely be ignored. Maybe we should apply the same zeal to prosecute these people which the Post Office and Fujitsu showed to their sub-postmasters (and don't pretend Fujitsu had nothing to do with it).

      Why were these people pursued so cruelly and for so long ??

      Is it just me ?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Strange

        "As for the Post Office ex CEO (what about previous CEOs ?) she says (in essence) we relied on what we were told and it wasn't really our role to oversee this stuff anyway."

        Clearly one or more people further down the food chain were "shielding" the board from the bad news and thus were criminally negligent. Someone, somewhere was hiding the bad news and lying by omission at the very least. Or the board DID know but made sure they were only ever told orally, so no paper trail.

  8. Lee D Silver badge

    Nowhere near the same scale but my ex used to manage a branch of The Works.

    One day they accused her of fiddling the petty cash. They sacked her.

    She couldn't afford to fight it with professionals, so she took them to court herself. And won. They had absolutely no evidence that anything was wrong with the petty cash at all. They lost badly in court, despite having fancy lawyers, to an amateur English graduate who managed a cheap bookstore. Purely because their own systems showed no error on her part and no potential for any money to have gone missing, but obviously something/someone ballsed up somewhere.

    The ex enjoyed screwing them to the wall so much that she took a law degree and then a barrister qualification.

  9. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Even the cockroaches murmured

    I can't remember where that quote comes from, but it is so appropriate here. Yet there is no doubt the truly guilty will get away scot-free, and indeed are probably actually still profiting from it all.

    They probably know we hold them in complete and utter contempt, yet arrogantly carry on regardless.

  10. VulcanV5

    Vwennells and Harding: aren't you glad UK healthcare is in the hands of such wonderful individuals

    Ex Post office CEO Vennells i now a luminary on an NHTrust, when she should in fact be in prison. Hopefully it's not too late for that. Vennells made it plain to "colleagues" what she wanted to hear and like the spineless minions they were, they told her exactly that: "everything's fine, ma'am, let's be getting on with the task of locking up subpostmasters before too many have gone and committed suicide."

    She's an individual of calibre just like Dido Harding, who presided over the ISP Talk Talk through the years it was regularly criticised for being the worst company in Britain for customer service, and also during which it suffered a spectacular data breach in response to which Harding 'fessed up that she didn't know anything thing about data encryption. Married to Johnson-supporting Tory MP, John Penrose, she's a former university mate of the distinguished, though thankfully now politically extinguished, David Cameron, with a title somewhat different to that of the justifiably deserved Village Idiot.

    She is, of course, a The Right Honourable Baroness Harding of Winscombe. After leaving TalkTalk, she landed the unadvertised behind-closed-doors appointment of head of NHS Improvement, this despite knowing as much about healthcare as she ever did about telecomms and data handling.

    Worthy of note is that the current non-existent Track and Trace initiative is under Harding's control, with results that so far indicate she's running true to form in her level of incompetence: reportedly, the TalkTalk data breach cost the company £60 million and lost it 95,000 customers. No matter: Harding sweeps on through life, turning up on the board of directors of Cheltenham race course,where she reportedly voted for the Cheltenham meet to go ahead despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic was on the verge of overwhelming the country. the pandemic was obviously taking hold of the country.

    Vennells doesn't have a title and seems not to have been at university with Cameron, so her prospects aren't anywhere near as rosy. However, the fact that she's on a London NHS Trust says much for the way the UK's political elite uses the NHS as a dumping ground for failed CEOs. It also says much for the stupidity of the UK electorate, which on the whole takes no interest in stuff like the NHS until such time as its middle-class groupies can go outdoors and bang saucepans in praise of an organisation graced by the likes of Vennells and Harding.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Vwennells and Harding: aren't you glad UK healthcare is in the hands of such wonderful indiv

      "also during which it suffered a spectacular data breach "

      FWIW, TWO spectacular data breaches in consecutive years before she ran away from the mess. Lessons clearly NOT learned.

      NB, edited title down as "the title is too long" since the Re: got auto added.

  11. Ashto5

    PO Prosecutions ?

    The number of PO employees and managers prosecuted for this stands at a whooping ZERO 0 THATS none nada zilch

    How many postmaster and postmistress prosecuted , hundreds.

    Does not seem fair does it really ?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Post Office scandal: Postmasters celebrate huge victory against convictions (2 Oct 2020)

    "Dozens of former sub-postmasters and postmistresses should get a clear path in quashing their convictions for fraud, theft and false accounting.

    They were convicted of stealing money after the Post Office installed a new computer system, with some imprisoned.

    Many have now been told the Post Office will not contest their appeals against conviction.


    1. Outski

      Re: Post Office scandal: Postmasters celebrate huge victory against convictions

      One would hope that, since these were private prosecutions, those responsible will be personally surcharged for any compensation for the upcoming wrongful conviction lawsuits, à la Shirley Porter:

      Highly unlikely, but one can hope

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like