back to article Fancy building a replacement for Post Office's disastrous Horizon system?

The Post Office, the UK government-owned retail organization for post and banking, has kicked off procurement to help build the system replacing Horizon, the disastrous EPOS and back office system at the heart of one of the country's greatest miscarriages of justice. The Horizon system, introduced in 1999, was built by ICL …

  1. ChrisElvidge Bronze badge

    EPOS

    How many EPOS systems does the country need?

    Why can't the PO ask ASDA or Tesco (or someone else in retail) for help building one?

    I'm fairly sure most retailers will have got the bugs out of their own systems by now.

    On another tack, what exactly does the Post Office do that couldn't be done better by the PO sub-postmasters themselves, perhaps arranged into a system like Nisa.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Won't Somebody think of the Stakeholders?

      I'm sure there are various big cheeses at POL who would argue that they couldn't POSSIBLY use an off-the-shelf EPOS system, and the idea of trusting SPMs to run it themselves would make them choke on their Chivas Regal.

      No no no, it has to be a big centralised bespoke system, ideally one where we can fiddle the books remotely and fit people up for Fraud if we don't like them but can't fire them..

      With a bit of luck though, some of those Cheeses will be rooted out by the Inquiry and sent to jail. One can only hope.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Won't Somebody think of the Stakeholders?

        Not to mention missing out on the backhanders from build-out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Won't Somebody think of the Stakeholders?

        Way back in early 2000s I was working for a POS software house. The Post Office sent us some hardware asking if we could run our POS on their <ancient> hardware. It couldn't do - our software was too resource hungry so we were out, but thinking if they were willing to upgrade their hardware, at least from mid-2000s the Horizon would be out and hundreds, if not thousands of people wouldn't have suffered injustice like this.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Trollface

          <ancient> hardware.

          That wouldn't have been an ICL 2966 running VME/B, would it?

          1. TV nerd

            Re: <ancient> hardware.

            2966 is hardly 'ancient' ! Try a 1904S ?

            Also a bit tricky to fit a 2966 OCP/SAC/SMAC and some FDS200's in the post office itself.

            Perhaps awkward to explain the power usage too ...

            The OPER is fine for the job - they took far more 'handling' than any sub-postmaster could provide :-)

      3. cookieMonster Silver badge

        Re: Won't Somebody think of the Stakeholders?

        While agree totally, I doubt ANY cheese is going to jail. Promoted, possibly… but no jail time for the privileged.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: EPOS

      One thing which I discovered looking through some of the more technical accounts was that the counters provide services for a number of customers. ASDA PoS will not simultaneously be handling sales for Tesco and Morrisons as well as their own.

      A slightly more comparable situation can arise with a filling station operating a supermarket branded convenience store: a few days ago I bought petrol at a BP filling station with a Morrisons Local (or whatever they call it) convenience store attached which could handle BP customer cards but not Morrisons'.

      The COTS PoS system is too limited when it's asked to stray outside supporting one business at atime. The alternative, of course, is that the PO reorganises the way it does business to avoid all that. Maybe miracles are possible.

      1. Maximus Decimus Meridius

        Re: EPOS

        I don't think this is so unusual. I was at a large garden center the other day with different concessions throughout. We were able to pay for any item at any till and were not limited to that concession only.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: EPOS

        > ASDA PoS will not simultaneously be handling sales for Tesco and Morrisons as well as their own.

        Suggest you visit Asda’s, Aldi et al.

        Aldi are a concessionary for the National Lottery, to buy a ticket, just scan the bar code and the till will generate a lottery ticket as well as a sales receipt.

        Asda etc. whilst being a consessionary for National Lottery, also enable you to top up mobile phones, buy iStore, Amazon etc. vouchers

        Just because it goes through a single till doesn’t mean it is handled the same way in the backend and accounts.

    3. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

      Re: EPOS

      Ask Asda? Who is still running on Walmart's backend as 4 years after walmart stopped being the major shareholder their replacement systems aren't ready?

    4. Howard Sway Silver badge

      Re: EPOS

      EPOS systems are nowadays just a front end into the entire IT system of a retail business. So systems for stock control, transport logistics, business analysis of sales, etc are all completely integrated with the instant data they get from the EPOS. These are how businesses differentiate themselves and compete with each other, so to have one system only would appear to be a cost saving, but would eliminate competition and innovation and make the retail sector into a cosy cartel.

      Furthermore, the systems used in Asda for monitoring sales and reordering stock are going to be very different from the integration required at the post office for renewing passports, currency exchange, parcel tracking, etc. The only thing they really have in common is the fact that you have to hand money over at the till for whatever it is you're doing.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: EPOS

        > Furthermore, the systems used in Asda for monitoring sales and reordering stock are going to be very different from the integration required at the post office for renewing passports, currency exchange, parcel tracking, etc

        They are just back end integrations driven by the barcode. However, some do require front end integrations, which can be achieve in the same way web browsers run applets for passports, phone credits etc. with the applet selection also being driven by the barcode…

    5. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: EPOS

      Most of the things that the Post Office sells are things that aren't in stock - if I take a parcel to the post office and ask them to deliver it some place, they work out how much it will cost, and print a postage label for that amount. Then they do things like check passport applications, hand out payments for benefits & pensions, provide limited branch banking services for some banks and so on.

      This is very different to what Tesco & Asda do.

      It should be noted that Asda have their own problems with de-merging their computer system from Walmart's.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Re: EPOS

        > ask them to deliver it some place

        That won't work. The Post Office will sell you a label which lets them pass the parcel (ha!) to Royal Mail to deliver. POL and Royal Mail are different organizations.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: EPOS

          > POL and Royal Mail are different organizations.

          I seem to remember the in Post Office systems are operated through Post Office Counters Ltd.

          I suspect this permits greater clarity over transactions and avoids monies destined for say Royal Mail appearing on and thus distorting Post Office Ltd accounts.

      2. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

        Re: EPOS

        Asda just extended the walmart support as the replacement SAP based system is still not ready after almost what, 4 years?

        1. hittitezombie

          Re: EPOS

          Was a SAP project ever delivered on time or on budget?!?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: EPOS

            And working correctly?

      3. hittitezombie

        Re: EPOS

        It's not that hard to do such customizations on a proper EPOS system. Modularity has always been the game.

    6. John Sager

      Re: EPOS - not Tesco

      Tesco replaced their in-store IT several months ago and it is a crock from the shopper's point of view. The 'smart-shop' barcode readers are now super-slow as the product lookup process when you scan the barcode has gone from essentially instant to several seconds, and it repeats also when you scan for more than one item. Heaven knows where they got the design team from.

      1. ITMA Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: EPOS - not Tesco

        Please remove unrecognised postage from the bagging area....

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: EPOS - not Tesco

          The reality is not far off...

          "The Telegraph has seen 40 instances of customers claiming that stamps - both old and new - they bought from Post Offices or the Royal Mail website were flagged as invalid."

          https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/royal-mail-post-office-daily-telegraph-post-offices-b1149108.html

          https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/08/03/royal-mail-stamp-chaos-post-office-barcodes/

          1. hittitezombie

            Re: EPOS - not Tesco

            Royal Mail indeed charged me £5 to receive a legit stamp that was bought from a Post Office.

            My complaints ended up nowhere.

            1. ITMA Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: EPOS - not Tesco

              Could be worse - you could have ended up in prison for having the nerve to complain...

              1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                Re: EPOS - not Tesco

                More likely, on cooked up charge of actual fraud

          2. Gene Cash Silver badge

            Re: EPOS - not Tesco

            BBC is saying "China is wot dun it" making counterfeit stamps.

            https://www.bbc.com/news/business-68786782

            Now what's interesting to me is the 2 stamps labelled genuine & fake in this article are visually identical, except for the different barcodes. Why aren't the Chinese (or whoever) copying the barcodes? Why do they do such a picture-perfect effort on the rest, only to obviously fail at that?

            (American stamps don't have barcodes, so I don't know how they work...)

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: EPOS - not Tesco

              Iain Duncan Smith is the one blaming China, but he doesn't seem to have any evidence.

              Personally, I think this is the second Horizon scandal.

              What's more probable:

              1) Someone is printing large numbers of stamps with an invalid QR code and sneaking them into the supply chain completely unnoticed.

              2) The Horizon system is not registering some stamp sales and invalidating blocks of genuine stamps.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: EPOS - not Tesco

                Not got a packet of stamps to hand, but from that picture it looks like the stamps might have individual serial numbers, so what’s happened is someone forgot to scan the packet/sheet to change its status to released for sale/use.

                OR… the behind the scenes issuing/sales system didn’t correctly record the sale/issuing of the stamps… and if that system is … Horizon, this would be par for the course…

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: EPOS - not Tesco

              Americans still sign for card transactions instead of using chip and pin. The “land of the free” mandates 6 digit PIN numbers for your bank cards but are so backward in terms of fraud prevention it’s ridiculous.

      2. Vincent van Gopher
        FAIL

        Re: EPOS - not Tesco

        Nobody needs more than one guess at who's OS runs the latest Tesco barcode handsets. They went from fast to dog slow, I've no idea what runs in the back end but the handsets run Windows - one was stuck at boot when I went to the handset wall soon after the change.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: EPOS - not Tesco

          They've always run Windows. It used to be Windows CE.

          It's not the OS on the handset that makes them slow, it's the back end database taking forever to respond.

          1. cookieMonster Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: EPOS - not Tesco

            So on the backend, is it an excel lookup on a shared worksheet, an MS access 93 db or SQLServer??

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: EPOS - not Tesco

            WinCE - pronounced like it's spelled

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: EPOS - not Tesco

            But back end databases shouldn’t take “forever to respond” if they have appropriate resources, indexes, memory etc.

            I seriously doubt Tesco would skimp on that…

        2. John Sager

          Re: EPOS - not Tesco

          When I complained to Tesco about the crappy new system they said 'Take it up with the store manager'. When I asked if my local store manager was responsible for Tesco's software development they were not amused. The system is no better now than when it went live so I assume it's a fundamental design error rather than tweaking some parameters to improve the response.

      3. cookieMonster Silver badge

        Re: EPOS - not Tesco

        Re: “Heaven knows where they got the design team from.”… couldn’t possibly say, but I’m 100% certain that they were CHEAP!!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: EPOS - not Tesco

          I have little doubt they're contract programmers from a nation where there's a widespread philosophy of "why write 5 well-formed lines when 12 pages of gibberish will work just as well?"

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: EPOS - not Tesco

        It's the second time they've done it (that I recall) and the second time I've noticed performance turning to crap

        There's a lot to be said for fitting the senior IT developers (and their managers) with electric dog collars...

    7. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: EPOS

      "Why can't the PO ask ASDA or Tesco (or someone else in retail) for help building one?"

      It's it strange (OK, it's not) that there are rarely or never major issues with such systems in the commercial world? Such systems are critical to the running of big businesses, and they clearly know what they are doing when procuring them.

      What a contrast to major government IT projects, where a fuck up (at vast expense) is often the most likely outcome...

      1. claimed Silver badge

        Re: EPOS

        In a business, with enough delay, the hierarchy will produce a boss who is above everyone and says: fucking get this shit done right now or you’re done…

        In the public sector, there is no hierarchy, just horizontal divisions who collaborate, so it’s messy as fuck and you can’t bang people’s heads together

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Undoubtedly the advice given will be "Cloud". If that's taken up we can expect to see all POs in the country being out of operation at the same time fairly regularly.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      The "Cloud" of course will be foreign owned and mysteriously not making any profit in the UK thus not paying tax.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
      Devil

      Fear not - I'm sure there will be plenty enough up-time to allow data to be compromised via an unsecure bucket

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Impossible, only the post masters have access to the data, so they must have altered it ….

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Undoubtedly the advice given will be "Cloud". If that's taken up we can expect to see all POs in the country being out of operation at the same time fairly regularly."

      EXACTLY !!

      I would imagine that some numpty on the Post Office Board of Directors, has spouted the word "cloud" and made damn sure that this was part of whatever they use to replace Horizon.

      But having queued in many UK post offices to send a few small items out at around 4:30pm, only to end up standing behind one person who wanted to buy foreign exchange AND renew their passport AND send some Signed For letters AND pay their energy supplier AND take out some cash, it is going to be very tough for ANY IT system to handle all these types of transactions, via which ever BRAND NEW touch screen hardware every Post Office is going to need (as the Horizon hardware is no doubt "unsuitable") and for ALL these IT systems (in over 11,500 branches, each of which might have two, three even four active terminals at any one time) to be needing to transact data to/from the Cloud at the same time?

      I can see some HUGE issues arising, both in development, testing and even once commissioned. And 75 million (probably based on some back of fag packet calculation) simply won't be enough to give POL the bespoke system they want.

      They'd be much better off buying in the software from a similar operation in Sweden, Denmark, Germany or some other region ..and just getting the screen prompts/displays translated into English.

      1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

        "(in over 11,500 branches, each of which might have two, three even four active terminals at any one time)"

        My local post office has 7 counter positions in the main section, plus the 4 self service units, plus an extra counter position by the door. And I have seen all of the counters open at once, so not 3 even 4 active terminals, but 8 + self service.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        > (in over 11,500 branches, each of which might have two, three even four active terminals at any one time)

        Based on a own datacentre system I designed and installed in circa 2004 that’s:

        A top end Z-Series fronted by 4 mid-range “Unix”(*) boxes, double it for failover and add a third as a spare/tertiary failover configuration in a different data centre.

        Although with the number of back end integrations required, I would probably replace/supplement that Z-Series with a two-tier configuration of high-end Unix servers, making it easier to add/remove bespoke servers for specific product/service lines.

        Obviously the in-branch server will also be a reasonable “Unix”(*) box, so most of the traffic will be transactions rather than terminal sessions.

        Alternatively, you could go the web server approach, which would require a larger server infrastructure. in which case the in-branch server is minimised, but has the limitation that a loss of service would mean the counter closing rather than not being able to process particular services.

        I suspect cloud providers will push this load on their rebranded version of IBM cloud.

        The issues in development and testing is that, at this scale, is you don’t use the apps and dev tools out-of-the-box to build the production system, so many of the developers will have had no experience of this style of development.

        I remember from that project the main DB application provider saying stuff could be done overnight, until we confirmed they had only used their toolset on DBs up to circa 400GB; we were going to be using them on a 4TB DB…

        (*) By Unix I mean a Unix/Linux box actually designed to be a server to support high levels of I/O, rather than a beefed up PC running Windows/Linux.

        1. TV nerd

          Horizon was NT3.5 using ISDN calls to synchronise data.

          It was designed ten years before your system ...

          Also, it had to cost a lot less than yours on a per-store basis.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "I remember from that project the main DB application provider saying stuff could be done overnight, until we confirmed they had only used their toolset on DBs up to circa 400GB; we were going to be using them on a 4TB DB…"

          Failure to test at scale is a very common problem from the suppliers, even when offered the opportunity to do so on the test rig before deployment

      3. TV nerd

        £75M is for the work the post office is not doing themselves ...

        It will likely cost hundreds of millions - remember the Post Office is a publicly owned business !

      4. 43300 Silver badge

        "I would imagine that some numpty on the Post Office Board of Directors, has spouted the word "cloud" and made damn sure that this was part of whatever they use to replace Horizon."

        The other in-vogue bullshit term which is likely to have been used is 'digital transformation' (i.s. sticking your data on somebody else's computers). 'Blockchain' seems to have fallen from favour in the bullshit lexicon of late, but 'AI' could well make an appearance.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They tried that

      AWS couldn't migrate it. Azure was tried and rejected. Cloud is just outsourcing by another name, and the network costs are pretty steep.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £75 million

    won't go very far after the leeches have their fees

    1. tmTM

      Re: £75 million

      I assume this 75 million is just a deposit?

      No public IT system can come in anywhere near budget, it's just the law.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: £75 million

      OTOH, given the clusterfuck that Horizon turned out to be, one could probably cobble together a better-functioning system using gaffer tape and bits of string for £7.50

  4. wyatt

    My brother refused a new EPOS system ad at university he worked at, it just didn't work- calculations were worked out manually and found to be different to the system. In the end it got accepted by someone above him. Hate to think what it's like now.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Worse, of course.

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Competition

    Work will be let via mini-competitions within the panels on either a [time and materialsworkers' wages]

    FTFY

  6. Philip Storry

    I'm surprised

    I'm surprised to read that the tenders must be submitted by the start of May.

    I honestly expected that they'd just extend the whole process indefinitely until the inquiry is finished, then spew out some guff about "valuing the relationship" and "wanting to capitalise on existing working knowledge" and hire Fujitsu for it.

    That's the kind of spineless, venal thing I've come to expect from the management at the Post Office.

    So I am quite surprised that this appears to be a genuine attempt to break away from the existing contract.

    Unless, of course, Fujitsu already knew about this and therefore regard it as as exempt from their ban on tendering as it falls under ongoing projects.

    Or the Post Office management decide that the bids are all unsuitable and go for another round... then another... then another... until they get what they want.

    Still, there's plenty of time for that to happen yet. I won't believe it until contracts are signed...

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      "That's the kind of spineless, venal thing I've come to expect from the management at the Post Office."

      As is the NDA. You'd have thought, after what had happened, they'd have wanted to be very open and transparent about the new system and, in particular, it's reliability. This "trust us" shit won't work, they burned that bridge in spectacular style.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      Most likely Tories just want to get their bungs before Sunak is forced to call for general elections.

      If they didn't know they'll lose, they'd probably keep dragging it.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I'm surprised

      Or possibly Fujitsu decided that the negative publicity would cost them more than they'd make from the contract.

      Either way, if Fujitsu aren't tendering for it, we already know who will get the contract instead: Crapita.

      1. ScottishYorkshireMan

        Re: I'm surprised

        Methinks that Fujitsu have moved on

        https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2024/04/11/fujitsu-nuclear-uk-contract/?__s=pocan8tjr1dsedm1bg4a

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      "I honestly expected that they'd just extend the whole process indefinitely until the inquiry is finished"

      I think they're targeting "heat death of the Universe" as the finish of the inquiry. They may not have that many new documents to discover but padding things out with discovering previously discovered document has helped thm in the past.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone needs to check that

    Fujitsu are no tendering for this

    1. h3nb45h3r

      Re: Someone needs to check that

      Bet they are

    2. Anonymous Cowherder

      Re: Someone needs to check that

      I've a mole on the inside, a brand new upstart organisation, Jufitsu are currently in the leading contenders

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Someone needs to check that

        I was going to suggest that the other company name might be Jujitsu, but you beat me to the punch

  8. h3nb45h3r

    Hang on...

    Won't Fujitsu get upset if another company win a UK Government contract? Has no one thought about there feeling

    Will the Cabinet Office staff dealing in procurement have to negotiate back handers from other companies or is it in the bid requirements?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Hang on...

      I'm sure Capita will manage just fine.

      (ie they'll take as much tax payer money as they can get while leaving a useless mess in return)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hang on...

        Undoubtedly, the Fuji-mob will throw their toys out of the pram, as they did around 2015 when an IBM-led team, (commissioned at the request of the PO), proposed a replacement system. IBM & others had spent a lot of time & money on the new design/proposal. IBM was so upset by the PO's caving in to theFuji reaction, that it is alleged that litigation was threatened and serious money was handed over.

        If another team is looking as if it could take this "crock" over, and either repair or replace it, no doubt Fuji will arrange for the Japanese Ambasador or the CEO of Fuji to call into No 10 and point out how such a move would be greeted with distress by other Japanese companies wishing to invest in UK, such as Nissan. It's what they did before & I bet they'll do it again.

        It's worth remembering that the IBM bid for the original system ranked technically better than ICL's (later Fuji's) but IBM lost because of its relucatnce to accept an open-ended obligation to accept any and all losses due to fraud on the benefits payments, that were, at that time, dispensed by the PO. Reluctantly, IBM added a large chunk of money to its bid so as to to ensure that it probbaly wouldn't win but if it did, there would be enough of a buffer to cover the ridiculous fraud risk. At that time, the Benefits Agency was in the driving seat and were obsessed with benefits fraud. Ironically, they soon dropped out and moved to payments via the banks, which is what they always wanted to do. This change meant that exposure of having to cover fraud risk was written out of the contract, much to ICL's relief, no doubt.

        The papers revealed by the Inquiry show all this to be true, including the pressure put by the Japanese on HMG, plus the relative strengths of IBM's original proposal.. Also, I know, because, I was there.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Hang on...

          "no doubt Fuji will arrange for the Japanese Ambasador or the CEO of Fuji to call into No 10"

          Not anymore, thankfully. Fujitsu's name is Mud in Japan at the moment thanks to a bunch of similar but unrelated scandals there. Japanese citizens are only peripherally aware Fuji is involved in a major software scandal elsewhere in the world

  9. NXM Silver badge

    I'll do it!

    I have no experience at all of large-scale, secure, traceable EPOS systems, so I'm a perfect top-level contractor.

    I'll sub it out to someone I've never met, let it be developed for a few decades, and watch the money pour into my account. Then I'll move to my tax haven abroad.

    Job done.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: I'll do it!

      Ah, but it appears you DO have experience!

    2. Roland6 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: I'll do it!

      Sorry, we have no record of contributions to the Conservative Party, otherwise you look like just the sort of enterprising person this country needs more of.

      1. NXM Silver badge

        Re: I'll do it!

        Nail on head, Roland6, but I actually was a member for a while. I joined after the brexit result with the sole purpose of voting against the fluffy-headed lying permabonking oaf as party leader if the opportunity arose. Call it tactical party membership.

        Sadly I was outvoted by the blue rinse crowd, so I let it lapse.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pay to tender ?

    Last time a big HMRC contract was out for tender, none of the big outfits bothered pointing out the contract would go to the incumbent and they were not going to waste money tendering.

    HMRC had to pay their costs to tender.

    Which made me consider setting up a company that only existed to provide tenders at someone elses cost.

    The £37 billion spunked on test'n'trace shows how unambitious I was.

  11. katrinab Silver badge
    Meh

    What is the difference between a Fujitsu provided data centre and a cloud?

    1. Ball boy Silver badge
      Joke

      Difference between a Fujitsu provided data centre and a cloud?

      In a Fujitsu data centre, the company fiddles with your data; in a cloud, that privilege is reserved for external hackers.

  12. Ball boy Silver badge

    Larry Ellison spoken about this yet?

    THE platform of choice, natch. After giving his backing to Birmingham Council's migration I'm sure he'd be only too happy to suggest they'd be a perfect fit for this project too. £75m should just about cover project scoping and the basic-requirements doc.

    Relax: I'm joking. I think ;)

  13. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Infosys

    If they make a decision before the election, then I bet Infosys get the contract.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Infosys

      Fushitesu, Infocyst, Crapgermini or Crapita.

      or whichever else those in power have in their "blind" trusts.

      How did we even arrive to be in such situation...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Infosys

        "How did we even arrive to be in such situation..."

        Easy answer: The dumb, poorly educated voters were led to believe that a specific party and ALL their electoral candidates were "fit for purpose", had multiple skill sets and were going to govern fairly and honestly and to ensure the vast green brightly lit uplands would be safe in their hands.

        The resulting so-called career politicians, who had NO idea about business, or any real-world knowledge of procedures, were put in charge of government depts and they had no idea of what to do, except to make crap speeches, re-iterating the same verbage their party leaders were spouting, and knowing full well that it was just smoke screens and mirrors and with a huge majority in the House of parliament, they could get away with anything. And by giving knighthoods and other gongs to their media savvy mates and awarding huge contracts for Covid PPE, they knew that they were all on a gravy train that would continue for as long as no one found out that they were useless.

        But then Truss came along and proved to everyone, that they had no clue about anything and the rot set in...and even Sunak is lying through his back teeth, claiming that everything is going well, inflation is coming down, NHS waiting times are reducing (but still longer than before Sunak became the unelected PM) and his family are doing very well, thanks to that nice contract that was awarded to BP.

        And by the way, his new mega-expensive house extension in his Richmond constituency, will be finished soon, as he will then have lots of time to enjoy it, once he is kicked out of office.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Infosys

        Mrs Sunak (Akshata Narayana Murty) and her father own Infosys.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Infosys

          There's a reason he's referred to as a "Billionaire's personal pet" by some

  14. tiggity Silver badge

    No tenders?

    "Fujitsu has agreed not to tender for UK public sector work until the end of the inquiry, while the government has promised to accelerate compensation."

    Worth a read of

    https://www.computerweekly.com/news/366577734/Fujitsu-staff-instructed-how-to-bid-for-government-contracts-during-self-imposed-ban

  15. ITMA Silver badge
    Devil

    New Bidder

    I hear that the Krays are going to bid for this.

    After all they have all the right skills - "thugs in suits" :)

    Do they have the internet in Broadmoor?

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: New Bidder

      That is weather computers

      Cray do well at those

      1. ITMA Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: New Bidder

        Nope - wrong sort of Kray

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kray_twins

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Murder, robbery, arson, gambling, protection rackets and ultra-high-speed computing

          Seymour Cray, do you know my name?

          Ah, don't say you don't

          Please say you do, ah ah

          (Then again, what does Morrissey know anyway? He hasn't had a major hit since those Bob the Builder singles over twenty years ago...)

          1. ITMA Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Murder, robbery, arson, gambling, protection rackets and ultra-high-speed computing

            Ah... The Two Seymours...

            Cray and Papert.

    2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Since there were two, that might explain why they were "Kray Kray"

      That's no longer relevant as neither of the Kray twins have resided in Broadmoor for over twenty years.

      Both now live in a stylish underground residence in Chingford Mount Cemetery.

      Then again, perhaps "live" isn't the right word.

      (Do they have the Internet in the afterlife, and does it require IP over Ouija?)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Since there were two, that might explain why they were "Kray Kray"

        "Both now live in a stylish underground residence in Chingford Mount Cemetery."

        Not far from my grandfather's grave, as well as the unmarked grave of his first wife and daughter. (I know the general location of the latter as a section of the cemetery was specifically for victims of the blitz). Pretty sure my grandfather would have had a choice word or two to say about sharing a cemetery with the three Kray brothers, as well as the way some people admire those vicious sods.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't bother submitting a tender. They will only use it to try to bid lower with Oracle. Your company will just be wasting its time.

    Did I mention that they have already chosen Oracle again? ;)

  17. Ol'Peculier
    Mushroom

    As the final phase of the inquiry is to provide recommendations for the future, isn't it best to wait until September?

    1. CorwinX Bronze badge

      EPOS isn't just the terminal in the shop

      It's the whole back end.

      Except, somewhat, for the links to the backend financial system, one supermarket's EPOS system could and has been used by another with minimal customisation. They all run on the same product barcode scanning system.

      Post Office is different. Aside from, say, stamps there's no barcode to scan and the calculations for a single transaction can be complicated.

      That’s why they couldn't/can't just modify an off-the-shelf retail EPOS system.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: EPOS isn't just the terminal in the shop

        I've never worked in retail but isn't that the easy part? Sure the transactions are different - and there are lots of unique "service"-type transactions, which would have to be Java apps running in the till (walking the user through checking an International Driving Permit application, for example).

        But the hard part, the part which needs to be secure, robust, reliable, unable to lose, corrupt or duplicate a transaction, never able to modify a transaction under any circumstances, etc. is presumably the same as other retail businesses. And so are tools like daily till reconciliations, stockcheck reconciliations, recording and tracking "shrinkage", generating operational and management reports, auditing, detecting fraud, etc.

        1. CorwinX Bronze badge

          Re: EPOS isn't just the terminal in the shop

          Technically it's not that hard.

          They got spotting missing transactions sort of right with seqental unique transaction numbers.

          What they apparently didn't do was append CRCs/hash values to transactions for error/tamper checking.

          Nor did they check for duplicate transactions.

          And that's only when the transaction is written - the piece of offal that was Horizon couldn't be trusted to calculate it right in the first place.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: EPOS isn't just the terminal in the shop

        > That’s why they couldn't/can't just modify an off-the-shelf retail EPOS system.

        Current generation EPOS systems are obviously a lot more limited than the systems I used and greatly modified/enhanced circa 20 years back through the use of EAI tools…

      3. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: EPOS isn't just the terminal in the shop

        There's no barcode on loose fruit and veg, and when I get a custom pizza from the counter the person who assembled it prints off an on-demand barcode.

        When I go to the petrol station and buy some diesel, car wash, lottery tickets, book of stamps, a bottle of milk, chocolate biscuits and swipe my supermarket loyalty card, each of those items has a different supplier and/or VAT rate, some affect stock and some do not.

        The only genuinely unique requirement for a Post Office EPOS is the logo. It really should be off-the-shelf.

  18. C-Clef

    The Horizon system ... was built by ICL.

    Now, I wonder, was that part of ICL once called DataSkil? I rather suspect it was.

    It was once referred to, by any other programmer ICL employees, as "RentaBerk" due to the extremely high quality of the code that emanated from it!

    I have my suspicion that the departmental heads, in order to post high profitability for that division, needed a mechanism to boost their 'effectiveness'.

    "Where, oh where, can we make some extra cash on the side in order to show how wonderful we are? Oh Yes! I have an idea."

    But then, of course, it's just my imagination, nothing to do with the fact that I once worked for them.

    I wonder if it's based on the back door I once created in some PLAN code I wrote back in the sixties. Now there's a thought.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Horizon system ... was built by ICL.

      DataKill. ... it was already called that when I did my student placement in 1980 ....

      PLAN .. there's a blast from the past .... they don't make them like that anymore ... probably for the better

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sunak: "No more Fujitsu contracts"...

    Uk government: New Fujitsu contract for software for nuclear power stations! https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/fury-as-fujitsu-awarded-government-contract-despite-post-office-scandal/

  20. TM™

    Face Palm

    "Whilst Post Office is responsible for overall programme management, strategy and architecture it has a requirement to engage with third parties to help create the necessary solution," the notice said.

    Which is why it will fail, because software creation is in large part: programme management, strategy and architecture. Only someone who mistakes a knowledge gaining exercise like software creation for manufacturing would think of using nineteenth century Taylorism to manage it, i.e. "We've come up with the plan, we just need someone to bolt it all together".

    New flash: No software plan survives contact with the enemy. Software programming is not the twenty first century equivalent of brick laying.

    Obviously no lessons have been learnt.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    build a new horizon?

    Umm, nothankskthankxbai.

    I'd rather nail my scrotum to a wildebeest and fire a starting pistol than have my name associated with that project.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other news

    Barge poles and running shoes, sales are up!

  23. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Happy

    I've got an

    old copy of visual basic lying around somewhere

    I'll hack something together over the weekend that will do the job.

    Because thats about 12 hrs more work than fushitshow put into sorting horizons.

  24. EUbrainwashing

    If it barks like a dog in the night....

    We all know the PO Horizon system registered spurious debits, yes. We know about the spurious debits that were known about, but we don't know about the spurious debits that we don't know about. What we don't know is how many spurious debits were just paid-off, maybe because they were too small to recognise as anomalous, or to bother with, or because of the implications of reporting such a variation.

    My point is: there could be a great deal more spurious debits than those known about, and all of this would likely add up to a great deal of money. So how come this anomaly was not detected, if only because with all these unfounded debits, Horizon's accounts would not balance?

    If the Horizon system was so fatally flawed as to create thousands of spurious debits, could it not also have been simultaneously creating thousands of spurious credits. And would it not be greatly more probable that such spurious credits would be more likely to go unreported and/or unnoticed.

    PLUS, we do not know exactly how or why this system created these thousands of spurious debits. What we do know is that, despite the Post Office's denials, there was back-end access to the branch accounts, and that it was possible to edit and amend records (balances). So it is possible that the thousands of spurious credits were paid to fraudsters and the books only balanced because the money defrauded from the system was hidden because of the thousands of spurious debits balancing the books.

    Now, if any entity knows about this, it would be the organisation who built and managed the system. Who the fraudsters are could be insiders or, who knows, the system could have been designed to deliver 'project funding'. Who knows. My already low level of trust in 'the state' is, since 2020 onwards, at an all-time low. I see utterly no reason to be otherwise.

    In such an event, the fraudsters would want to keep any prospective whistle-blowers tied-in and happy, would they not.

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