Case Studies


Case Study 1

Details

After being appointed to the position of Sub-Postmaster, the training focused solely on promoting and selling Post Office products, rather than other important tasks such as book-keeping, balancing and problem identification and resolution. There were no major discrepancies until the introduction of Horizon online.

Problem

Once Horizon was in use, stock was often not transferred correctly on the system, resulting in supposed shortfalls. Lottery terminal figures didn’t balance with Horizon and the number of scratch cards activated was often duplicated, affecting the stock levels.

The Helpline was alerted in all instances, but there was a lack of knowledge and assistance. It was advised that any losses would ‘resolve themselves’

Effect

The Sub-Postmaster had to inflate cash figures to keep the business open. This led to a termination of their contract following an audit, without a full investigation into how and why the shortfalls had occurred. A Restraint Order was obtained against the Sub-Postmaster. This was discharged after nine months after alleged investigations into the losses were completed. The results/findings of the investigation were never provided and no further action was taken against the Sub-Postmaster.

Action

The Sub-Postmaster joins the legal group action.

Case Study 2

Details

The Sub-Postmaster didn’t experience any major discrepancies within the first six months of operating the branch, then shortfalls occurred over a ten week period.

Problem

During the first four weeks in which the losses occurred, a base unit frequently lost power, the screen kept freezing and the keypad was sticking. The base unit was subsequently replaced.

Losses that were placed into the suspense account started to show on both sides of the transaction data, which should not have occurred and caused further losses.

Amounts placed in the suspense account mirrored the shortfall amount that occurred the following week.

Over 90 calls were made to the Helpline requesting assistance and a review of Horizon. No help was ever provided. The Helpline staff did not understand the problems described, had no experience of working on Horizon and were simply reading off crib sheets.

Effect

The Sub-Postmaster was suspended following an audit. They offered to pay the money back if the Post Office could provide raw transactional data to evidence a physical loss and if it could be shown that the loss was caused by the Sub-Postmaster or his staff. No data could be provided but the Sub-Postmasters contract was terminated.

The Post Office then commenced a civil legal action against the Sub-Postmaster, the costs of which forced the Sub-Postmaster to petition for bankruptcy.

Action

The Sub-Postmaster joins the legal group action.

Case Study 3

Details

The branch had been in the family for years. Prior to Horizon, any discrepancies were minor and easily resolved by reviewing the paper audit trail of the transactions.

Problem

The introduction of Horizon reduced the information available to the Sub-Postmaster when attempting to investigate any shortfalls. The information available was further limited with the introduction of swipe card banking as customer details were no longer contained on records, the receipts simply showed the amount of the transaction.

The Helpline refused to contact banks, etc to provide details of the account holders to allow the Sub-Postmaster to contact the relevant person to resolve the discrepancy.

Installation of a Bank of Ireland ATM in branch led to balancing issues on Horizon and large shortfalls. Giros went missing between being sent from the branch to being processed by Alliance and Leicester and the branch was also not credited for bounced cheques, when the money paid had been returned direct to the Post Office.

No assistance provided by the Helpline as they have never seen these issues before. The Sub-Postmaster was advised that the call would be passed onto the appropriate person but never received a call back.

Effect

Sub-Postmaster was blamed for all losses without any investigation and was advised to resign as if not their contract would be terminated in any event. The Sub-Postmaster was also required to make good the losses to avoid any further action being taken against them.

Action

The Sub-Postmaster joins the legal group action.