, 66 tweets, 11 min read Read on Twitter
We are back in court 26 of the Rolls Building for Day 5 of Horizon trial. @PostOffice director Angela van den Bogerd (pictured) who was found to have misled the court in the last trial, is in the witness box.
We are discussing an internal @PostOffice document which suggests small changes which could be made to Horizon which could save a lot of bother and Patrick Green QC for the claimants (PG) is comparing it with Angela van den Bogerd’s (AB) Witness Statement (WS).
@PostOffice AB confirms she has not seen this document before.
Please not my tweets summarise and paraphrase what is happening in court. Direct quotes are not direct quotes unless in “direct quotes”.
Please note, even.
PG is listing a bunch of issues which could be done to stop a number of errors being made in branch either with equipment or by the end user....
… the issues have been identified by the Post Office in a document dated 1 Oct 2014.
PG in your first WS you identified miskeys as a source of error.
[we go to a new doc 31 March 2016]
PG this doc seems shows that if branch miskeys it doesn’t matter how big it is, they have to settle even if this could put the branch viability in doubt if held liable.
PG does that fairly reflect the situation?
AB yes
PG takes AB to WS par 156 where she talks about changes that have now been made to Horizon. For context you are in charge of improvement at the Post Office yes? so you’re the right person to go to for info on this?
AB some of it
PG and are the examples you’ve written here at par 156 good examples of improvements you’ve made?
AB they are some examples
PG and your example about Drop and Go sounds really good doesn’t it?
AB yes
PG was it?
AB no - we had quite a few problems implementing it.
PG yeah - what you’ve just said there doesn’t exactly leap off the page there does it?
AB no
PG let’s have a look at some of those issues…
[goes into lots of issues with Drop and Go - blocked accounts, high volume of calls and dissatisfaction in branch from customers]
[this is from an internal PO report]
PG decision was taken to allow a known design fault to allow customers to continue using [sorry I couldn’t keep up then]
PG so this is what you mean when you added to your witness statement just now about the problems.
AB yes it did come up
at the branch user forum.
PG is what you have written in your WS giving a slightly rosy picture of what the improvement with Drop and Go actually achieved?
AB now you mention all those problems, yes.
PG goes to doc entitled “Money out of thin air on timeout introduced by prototype” internal document.
PG have you heard of this
AB not this terminology
PG have you heard of the problem by another name?
AB no
PG what sort of document is this?
AB not sure - part of the project?
PG the IT improvement project?
AB yes possibly I haven’t seen it
PG okay let’s take this in stages…
[J is looking at this document with what looks like incredulity. I can’t see it.]
AB says she doesn’t know anything about this document and wasn’t involved in it.
PG noting this is just a prototype - and it has problems because it creates a situation of unintended consequences - ie creating money out of thin air.
PG there were some problems with Drop and Go you were aware of and some you weren’t. Is that fair?
AB that’s fair
[we go to email exchange about 54 pilot branches for new Drop and Go system which shows a serious issue which nearly deployed duff code to the live Horizon estate]
[which would mess up the whole of Horizon - so they stopped it just in time - with 30 mins to spare]
PG did you know anything about this?
AB no
[PG then mentions another change Post Office brought in. It brought cheque rem out process onto a single screen to make things much easier for branch staff. it arrived June 2015.]
PG is there any reason why you couldn’t have done that in 2002?
AB it depends what was going on...
… at the time.
PG really? There was no good reason was there?
AB accepts
[PG moves on to the final improvement that AB has listed in her WS. He asks again why it took more than a decade for this to happen. No real answer]
PG Short point is that’s quite a simple thing to change.
PG you brought it in.
AB yes
PG but there’s no real reason it couldn’t have been brought in earlier.
[PG going through Moneygram refund process which was a big issue for one of last week’s witnesses who had a big issue with a £3100 Moneygram refund]
We’ve just spent a long time proving that par 162 of AB’s WS is not correct. It needed the insertion of a date.
Which would or should have had a bearing on what happened to Mr Patny when his MoneyGram transaction reversal went wrong.
After the fireworks of this morning, this is very hard going.
PG introduces a document which is signed off by AB. It lists the legacy systems and slow back office processes which need to be improved to reduce errors by Post Office staff and help those in branch. AB does not remember this specific document, but she does remember the broad...
… sweep of it.
We are having a break. I need some caffeine.
We are back.
[we have got to a document which explains problem with MoneyGram transactions doubling - just like Aakash Patny had and was described in court last week]
PG this was a recognised real problem that SPMs were not being told about
PG yes?
AB yes.
PG and were probably getting blamed for.
AB ….
PG when it was quite a big system problem.

[I think this could be the smoking gun. This is a Horizon error which seemed to lead to an SPM being blamed for not following what we spent a while before the break…]
[… deciding was a fairly opaque procedure, which he may not have actually misfollowed anyway. But I’ll have to re-read the transcript. PG has not directly said this Horizon MoneyGram double transaction error which was happening at the same time as Mr Patny had exactly the…]
[… same problem and was held liable for was one and the same. He didn’t, I think, put it to AB, or hasn’t yet. we’ve gone off round the houses again.]
Okay we are now talking about AB’s WS which goes through Pam Stubbs discrepancies prior to her move to a portakabin. PG goes through it and it turns out that all of AB figures wrt to Pam Stubbs discrepancies are completely wrong.
PG asks why
AB has no idea. She asked a...
… colleague for the figures, and these were the figures he gave her. She has no idea why they differ from what she acknowledges are the correct figures that PG has.
We move on to the introduction of Horizon and the early days. The £1m error which doubled is mentioned, as is the Dungannon branch error where Horizon was suffering errors in a branch over a period of months and the IT wasn’t flagging up how. A fix was written eventually.
PG asking about it
AB explains what she was doing at the time - supporting people on the migration to Horizon
PG were you aware of the problems Fujitsu was having?
AB no - if one of my SPMs had a problem I’d go check their accounts with them and one issue we had was with an...
… SPM who always balanced. We called Chesterfield and they resolved it.
PG did you get any feedback as to what the problem was?
AB no - I escalated on and moved on to the next branch.
J so the information you got about Horizon problems was from the frontline SPMs. Anywhere else?
AB no
We go to a document of Alan Bates office. His cash dec is okay, but the auditor can’t enter it into Horizon because the terminal keeps adding the previous day’s cash holdings.
PG did you come across this problem?
AB no and I never heard of it
PG but if you did come...
… across it, you would escalate it?
AB yes

[we now go to the arrival of Horizon Online - the new realtime Horizon which went live in 2010, I think. The doc in question says HOL (as called) was designed to reduced Post Office costs as part of Forward: 3 to 11...
…. a PO strategy from 2003 to 2011]

PG says doc says HOL is not about new functionality - it will run on existing equipment. It was about business equivalence and cost-savings. It was not about changing or introducing new functionality.
AB agrees
[goes to april 2010 - operation functions report. Problems reported:

decision made to halt further migrations until problem dealt with]

PG Were you aware of this halt of the pilot?
AB no
PG where you aware of the problems?
AB no
PG did you research them before you wrote...
… your witness statement?
AB I had a broad understanding, but…
[PG starts saying something]
J Mr Green. You interrupted again. Please don’t.
PG I am sorry my Lord.
[we go to a PEAK report in which an SPM reports what s/he thinks is a system error]
[here the branch Horizon is printing declined receipts when the screen is saying they’ve gone ahead. this happens twice and the customer returns with cash and declined receipt. Check branch accounts and everything has doubled]
PG six lines up from the bottom of that box...
… SPM expresses regrets for agreeing to do HOL pilot and poor helpline response. Migration officer away and helpline now ignoring him. Angry he has to have responsibility for losses. Would never have agreed to do pilot if he’d known it would be this bad.
PG were you...
… aware of anything like these problems?
AB no
PG refers to document which shows how HOL rollout was postponed, and Fujitsu call it a red alert. Have you seen this document?
AB no
Now goes to planning document for meeting between James arbuthnot MP and Oliver Letwin MP with CEO and Chair of PO. Document states the PO should be willing to be transparent and open and to provide info as requested. Notes that in the document the line on HOL was that it was...
… an upgrade with the “full support” of the @NFSP_UK.

PG that wasn’t really accurate was it? as it wasn’t an upgrade and the NFSP were broadly supportive but had expressed reservations.
[PG whizzing through the internal documents which appear to show that the introduction of HOL was a bit of a shitshow]
PG were you aware of any of this?
AB no
April 2010 document about Horizon online migration which shows delays of rollout of pilot until stability of
PG did you have any awareness of these problems?
AB I must have had some
PG did you do any research in order to refresh your memory for your WS?
AB it was from a broad..
… understanding of the situation.

Now onto a lessons learned document.

11 Nov 2015 - document written by AVDB document which showed need for business improvement...
AB were talking about SPM issues with the quality of the auditors - getting the Branch Support Programme running - having completed done the Complaint and Mediation scheme. Took the oppo to look at enhancements we could make to better support Postmasters
PG lets look at the titles in this: Area, Issue identified, Rationale for change, Consideration for Post Office.

and one of those considerations are: “failure to be open and honest when issues arise - eg migration of Horizon and HOL”
PG So you know there’d been an issue with failing to be open and honest?
Ab Yes
PG Do you accept the document I referred to earlier might have helped inform you about the extent to which those complaints might have been justified?
AB yes
PG Could you give us an idea of the thinking behind it
AB what I was trying to say was there was a broad concept - as we do things across the business we should always seek to take what lessons we can - small or large.
PG in the bottom of that box - you say we should show no hidden agenda, no skeletons in the cupboard and business willing to change - you thought that would be an important and helpful thing?
AB yes
PG you propose to standardise communications and engage SPMs more, but you didn’t propose any methods of increasing openness and transparency
AB no, what we did was quite broad - introducing branch user forum
PG What action was taken on your proposal to increase openness and transparency?
AB don’t know
PG Anything?
AB the branch user forum did work and did change things - it fed through in terms of the new technology - IBM and hardware swap out technology -
PG Branch user forum feeds back from SPMs to PO rather than PO announcing it would change?
AB it changed actually at first we listened and then it changed as we became more comfortable we talked about things like the operation of the keyboard and its layout
PG so like buttons very close together that increases the risk of error
AB no it was more about the size and shape of the keyboard in terms of ease of use
Judge stops the cross-examination there to do housekeeping.
It transpires one Post Office witness is in hospital. It means the court might now sit next week to accommodate him.
Also there is a mini-hearing at 10am tomorrow about the release of an Ernst and Young report on the Post Office which is now held by Royal Mail which apparently RM say they won’t release without a court order.
No reasons yet given. Suspect it’s a process thing.
And with that… we’re done.

I’ll get my report up, sort out the links to to the tweets and the transcript and it looks like I’ll have to scan in AvdB’s WS because I haven't (yet) had an electronic copy of WSs from the @PostOffice despite requesting them… grr...
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