Your local sub post office - heart of the community, essential service, potential bank and now focal point for accountancy controversy.
The controversy emerged last week when it was reported that up to 30 sub postmasters had come forward with complaints about the accountancy system used by the Post Office which, they claim, had produced discrepancies for six sub postmasters, concluding they owed more than £430,000 collectively.
Focus has now turned to Horizon, the accounting system used by the Post Office. The claims are that the system was faulty, showing takings for the branches as higher than they actually were.
IT professionals have been watching the news closely and discussion has focused on whether the Post Office has undertaken an IT audit, and whether the software provider is becoming embroiled in the row between local sub post masters and their employer.
The Post Office has issued denials but experts believe it needs to know
is going on, even if the software systems are not to blame.
Richard Anning, head of the ICAEW IT faculty, said: “You need to make sure that your accounting system is bullet proof.”
He added: “Whether they have an IT audit or not, they need to understand what was happening.”
The interest in the accounting systems is given extra urgency because of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement last week that the Post Office would return to offering banking services as a means of building more competition in the market.
Industry experts believe that alone should press the Post Office into some form of action.
David Turner, group marketing director at accounting software company Coda, believes whether or not these accusations are true the reputational damage is potentially disastrous.
“With an organisation as big as the Post Office, it is important to everyone that they have confidence in their IT systems especially if they are taking on banking systems,” he said.
He added that it is vital the Post Office does “something” to “dispel” any rumours of faults because reputation is critical when it comes to accounting.
However, the Post Office may not be alone in its responsibility, claims Mark Thompson, managing director of accountancy software company COA solutions.
“A supplier can’t walk away from responsibility,” he says.
The integration and maintenance of a company’s technology systems is a “partnership” he says, adding that both sides need to work on dealing with discrepancies within an IT system, especially if it was bespoke built.
Horizon had not returned calls from Accountancy Age by the time of
press and the Post Office declined to comment when asked if it would undertake
an IT audit.
However, the Post Office has issued a more general statement, saying: “Our Horizon IT system, which operates across the Post Office network, is extremely robust and successfully records millions of transactions each day and there is no evidence pointing to any fault with the technology.”
“We are completely confident our system is capable of handling the financial
services transactions carried out at Post Office branches and will support any new
services that we plan to introduce in the future.”
IN OUR VIEW
The Post Office should consider an IT audit to show it has taken the matter seriously.Although it may be small sums of money involved, perception is everything and it could not consider going back into bank services with an accounting system that had doubts attached to it.
The Horizon system and the post office accounting system has caused many problems for a large number of postmasters.
Posted by: David, 02 Dec 2009 | 00:00
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