Written evidence submitted by Munir Ahmed (POH0011)
I have been lead to believe that you are currently holding an inquiry in to the handling of sub-postmaster by Post office Ltd (POL), If I may I would like to give some input into the issues I have had with POL handling.
Before becoming a sub-postmaster in 2009 I worked for a company called Northrop Grumman and I worked in the IT sector looking after IDENT1 project (UK fingerprint system), I have had some experience in IT related issues. When I first started back in 2009 I wasn’t aware of any issues with horizon and was not made aware of any issues with the Horizon system, after about a year working on Horizon every month I would balance our stock with our cash holding and there would be some discrepancies between £20 - £400 and on couple of occasions we had larger losses of about £600/£700. These discrepancies I would put my own cash because I believed that either I’ve made a mistake or the staff have made mistakes, and I was told by my trainer that all discrepancies must be made good by you as you are liable for losses.
When I first heard about the court case regarding issues with Horizon I asked the NFSP and my area manager about this issue and the people involved, they told me that horizon is a robust system and there are only a handful of postmasters who believe that Horizon is faulty. They indicated that the issue isn’t with Horizon but with those postmasters.
The NFSP never told me about issues with Horizon and they never mentioned to me that if you have issues/shortages we can help. I was a paying member then and I never once got asked if I had issues with discrepancies during balancing period.
I now there have been issues with the system and we as sub-postmasters report to the helpline what we can, and for some we are told there are work arounds. The most recent issues that I can tell you about was:
1) When you try to scan a barcode on a bill payment, or mails barcode the system would randomly add items to your basket i.e. book of 12st class stamps etc…
2) Most recent change was to move the button for pre-order, some branches the button disappeared. No compensation was issued for lost of income to branches etc….
My issue with these is that Post Office Ltd wants hold the sub-postmaster liable for any discrepancies but yet we can’t control what changes are been made and no independent body is watching what changes are been made. As I said I came from an IT back ground and in my previous job before we would roll out changes to the computers that were used by Police and fingerprint bureau we would test these in our test labs and then we would have users from fingerprint labs come and test the system. Once the software was tested and signed off by independent bodies would the changes be rolled out.
There are some issues we can see but what about issues that we can’t see.
I recently raised an issue with the NFSP regarding a letter I received from the cash centre to tell me that I was £2000.00 short in my cash that I sent back, I knew this couldn’t be right as two people check the cash before it is bagged in the correct bags and rem’d out to cash centre. After I received the letter I spent the two days going thru my cash and stock and checking all my transactions to be sure that we have not made a mistake on my side before I contact POL. After all searching and no issues on my side I rang POL cash centre, I explained that I cannot be £2k short and that I want to see the video evidence. I got a call the next day from POL that they have found my £2k and they will be sending me a letter to tell me that no action will be taken. I asked the NFSP who audits POL to ensure that they are checking our cash correctly and that if I hadn’t raised this with them I would have £2K deducted from my salary. The NFSP told me that Bank of England audits POL and that they will look into this for me, I’ve not heard back but I challenged them that they are lying to me when they say Bank of England audits POL. Bank of England only audits POL on process on checking fake notes and the destruction process etc… not on cash discrepancies between POL and sub-postmaster (This is a prime example of how the NFSP is inadequate to represent Postmasters).
I would also like to raise issue regarding the NFSP, I do not believe that they represent postmasters and do not hold our interest above POL. I do not believe the NFSP should be paid by POL to represent postmaster but rather the postmasters should be able to choose who represents them and pays for it thru membership, If POL pay NFSP then the NFSP’s job is to look after the hand that feeds it (this is common sense basic logic). I have been to two NFSP meetings since the change from membership to been pay’d by POL and I can tell you that these meeting are not to raise issues but rather training course run by POL. The meeting consists of the following.
-Minutes from last meeting
-NFSP update 1 hour
-POL security 1 hour
-POL Mail Segragation 1 hour
-POL Retail Team 1 hour
-Q&A 30 min.
These so called meetings used to be run my POL area managers and they would go through Mail segregation, security, sales etc… These have no been passed over to NFSP to run with the money given by POL. You could say NFSP is a third party organisation that is running there training courses.
I would urge you please to look at this whole structure of POL from how our Pay is calculated to how the system is run, who audits POL independently and what use the NFSP has if it cannot stand for it’s members.
Should you need more information please do not hesitate to contact me.