UK Post Office Software Bugs Likely Created False Financial Shortfalls, Imprisonment
July 9, 2013 10:45 AM
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
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
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.
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