Below is an email from the Post Office to a disgruntled sub-postmaster who was having trouble with the new Horizon Online accouting system. We’ve not been able to verify that the company has had to scale back the rollout because of “system outages”, but have asked Royal Mail if there are problems.
The email mentions discrepancies, which is interesting because sub-postmasters have complained in the past of the Horizon system causing shortfalls in their accounts which they are then required to pay back. The email was posted on an online forum and we don’t know which sub-postmaster it was addressed to.
“Thank you for your email of 5 May sent to Paula Vennells, Network Director, Post Office Limited. I have been asked to look into the issues you have raised and reply directly to you.
I am sorry that you have had continued problems with Horizon OnlineTM.
Regrettably, we continue to have some technical issues that may cause pilot branches to lose connectivity to our data centre and prevent them from carrying out customer transactions. To ensure that we minimise any further disruption to the network, we have postponed the migration of further branches to Horizon OnlineTM until we have addressed the root causes of the problems.
The Crown Office migrations due to take place on 6 May were postponed because of the system outages you outlined in your email.
A number of changes and software upgrades have already been made that have had a positive effect on many of the problems experienced. Although I realise this will not take away your frustration, we do recognise the major impact on our subpostmasters, their teams and our customers when there are problems with the Horizon system, and we are working to identify solutions for the remaining problems.
I share your concerns about not completing your daily summaries and subsequently not sending the customer transaction data to our clients. Are you aware that if the system fails you can complete your daily summaries manually? The instructions for doing this are detailed in the Equipment and Admin Counter Operations Manual, Section 35 Daily accounting when
Horizon is unavailable/offline. These processes have not changed under the new system.
You also expressed your concern about the possible losses that may come to light as clients report errors and whether you may be held responsible for any discrepancies. I am advised that the Equipment and Admin Counter Operations Manual that was issued to all branches before migration provides full details on recovery. Additionally every Horizon OnlineTM branch has been given a copy of the Horizon OnlineTM Recovery Quick Reference Guide.
This provides an overview of the recovery process. If you have followed the correct procedures as described in these documents but your office has a discrepancy that you believe is connected to the system outage, you should contact the NBSC on 0845 6011022 immediately. They will advise you about the procedures and determine whether you have followed them correctly.
In closing I apologise that some issues are taking longer to resolve than we would hope and thank you for your continued patience at what I recognise is a difficult time.”