Print 9 comment(s) - last by cbf.. on Jul 17 at 2:53 PM

Investigations are still ongoing, but the Post Office has cleared all sub-postmasters of the financial shortcomings

A buggy software program in the UK Post Office system may have caused financial issues for many sub-postmasters. 

Sub-postmasters, which are not employed directly by the Post Office but run smaller offices around the UK, have been accused of financial shortfalls in their offices for years by the UK Post Office itself. As it turns out, these shortfalls didn't really exist -- they were falsely created by bugs in the company's accounting software. 

The software is the Post Office's Horizon computer system. It processes all transactions in the sub-postmaster offices and is reported to the Post Office. 

Horizon has been notifying some of the 11,500 branches that they've had money shortfalls as high as £9,000. According to the sub-postmasters' contracts with the UK Post Office, they must pay the difference when shortfalls occur. 

This has led to many problems for sub-postmasters, such as debt (for having to pay the difference themselves), imprisonment and loss of contracts. 

However, independent investigation company Second Sight was employed to look into the problem after many sub-postmasters started complaining that these shortfalls can't be real. 

Second Sight found bugs in the Horizon system, but no systematic problems. Further investigation is required, but so far, reports are leaning toward the software as the culprit for the shortfalls. 

The UK Post Office has cleared the sub-postmasters of these losses, no longer seeing them as liable. But over 100 sub-postmasters are looking to sue the Post Office over the prosecutions that have already occurred.

Many sub-postmasters have had serious financial problems with the trouble caused by Horizon. Jo Hamilton, who used to run a sub-post office in South Warnborough, Hampshire, is just one of these cases.

"I got to the end of one week and I was £2,000 short so I rang the helpdesk and they told me to do various things and then it said I was £4,000 short," said Hamilton. "They then said I had to pay them the £4,000 because that's what my contract says - that I would make good any losses. Then while I was repaying that it jumped up to £9,000."

The UK Post Office insists that its Horizon software is effective, but plans to boost training and support for the system. 

Source: BBC News

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By Motoman on 7/9/2013 11:11:17 AM , Rating: 5
I didn't honestly think any country could have a worse postal service than the US.

Well done, mates.

RE: wow
By Cloudie on 7/9/2013 11:43:02 AM , Rating: 2
Royal Mail is really good actually when it comes to both letters and parcels. The other courier companies in the UK are, in general, abysmal.

I used Myhermes to send some books back to my university library last year as I was at my parent's and they were overdue. It took them over 7 weeks to arrive despite advertising 3-5 working day service. Racked up £50 in library fines. Myhermes is half the price of Royal Mail but now I know why...

RE: wow
By fic2 on 7/9/2013 1:58:09 PM , Rating: 3
I remember ordering a motorcycle jacket from a place in the U.K. several years ago. It never got here (U.S.). And the company I ordered it from had no tracking data from it. At the time I assumed they would use a shipping service that would provide tracking info but apparently not.
Good for me that my credit card company took care of the issue.

Anyway, it sounds like typical gov't software - never works and an endless contract with the company that wrote it to get it to work correctly.
And, of course, it is because of a lack of "training" of the end user.

RE: wow
By spamreader1 on 7/9/2013 1:42:28 PM , Rating: 3
The US postal service isn't bad at delivery, it's biggest issue is how it's federally governed/managed.

RE: wow
By bah12 on 7/9/2013 4:08:28 PM , Rating: 2
I know it is fun to poke the old USPS, and I've done so myself. Tons of bloat, and horrible unions/pensions.

But when you think about it, they offer a service that will drive by your house 6 days a week to check if you have anythihg to send (even if you don't). Then if you have a letter they will deliver it usually within 5 days directly to the door of anyone in the lower 48 for just $.46 cents.

Now I ask you how much would you charge to do that for me? Bearing in mind that you are required to come every day even if I only use your service a few times a month.

UPS and FedEx sure the heck won't do it for that, they require I call and tell them to come get something. A subtle difference that has HUGE impacts on operations. It is why the USPS absolutely must have bulk mailers, otherwise all that driving around looking for a little red flag is a massavie waste. Why we can't just acknowledge this and allow them to pickup on call like their competitors, and cut out Saturday as well, is beyond me. Only in the most remote areas are they not requied to go house to house.

RE: wow
By cbf on 7/17/2013 2:53:37 PM , Rating: 2
If you're a business customer who ships a few packages a week, UPS will certainly visit you any day to see if you have anything to pick up. I know they've done this for at least 40 years or so..

Of course they won't do this for residential.

RE: wow
By Aikouka on 7/9/2013 4:14:14 PM , Rating: 2
Since you brought up the comparison, it's worthwhile to mention that the US Postal Service and the UK Royal Mail actually use sorting systems developed and integrated by the same company: Lockheed Martin. I don't know if this Horizons software was developed by LMCO though.

By DaveLessnau on 7/9/2013 11:57:16 AM , Rating: 2
This has led to many problems for sub-postmasters, such as debt (for having to pay the difference themselves), imprisonment and loss of contracts.

Imprisonment? Shouldn't they have been required to show a money trail or something to actually imprison someone? People can be imprisoned because one set of software says something but there's no paper trail, photographic, or physical evidence to back it up?

This is the reason
By Peter-B on 7/10/2013 5:33:48 AM , Rating: 2
why unit testing should be mandatory in software development!

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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