Nick Wallis Profile picture
Mar 7 34 tweets 7 min read
Thanks to @TomWitherow for the heads up. Amandeep Singh giving evidence now:

This from Amandeep Singh's Witness Statement...
@TomWitherow ... (he was a Horizon Helpline worker)

"The floor was quite a toxic place, and this manifested itself with colleagues openly mocking the role and complaining to management that the role was not
what they were initially hired for. Many were desperate to leave and as soon as...
... an option came to support another client, many jumped at the chance. Many of these colleagues were frustrated supporting these Postmasters, the toughest day was on Wednesday when it came to reconcile the weeks accounts....
... Postmasters right from week one would be upset, crying frustrated as they struggled to reach equilibrium on the transactions. The floor on these days was most toxic with vocal characters in Squad A, unchallenged by managers who...
.... looked away as all Asians were called Patels, regardless of surname. Shouts across the floor could be heard, saying "I have another Patel scamming again". They mistrusted every Asian Postmaster. They mocked Scottish and Welsh...
... Postmasters and pretended they could not understand them. They created a picture of Postmasters that suggested they were incompetent or fraudsters."
More: "As for their reconciling issues, when we could not help them with their accounts this would mean we spent a few hours on the phone going through each transaction and trying to figure out where the financial discrepancy was...
... We would eventually give up, and we were advised to write off the loss as a "discrepancy". This was a word you could hear from every agent's calls. Postmasters would really worry about these discrepancies, and some would...
... say they are putting in their own money every week to avoid them. The long- term impact of these discrepancies was not really a thought for any agent. I can't honestly say if any of the advice given to the Postmasters was incorrect...
... as we all had headsets on during our working day and the calls were relentless. Ican only say what was said of the calls, which was mainly mocking insulting about the role and the Postmasters."
In his live evidence, Amandeep Singh says he had no training in helping Subposmasters [SPMs] who had different computer literacies. Some SPMs didn't even know what a mouse was. Says other members of staff - the second line team had been "abandoned" and merged into the...
... first line team. The second line team hated this and would "belittle" the first line engineers for passing calls through to them. There was "animosity". AS says second line team felt the role they had was "beneath them" and the toxicity "grew and grew".
Some 2nd line support had worked supporting graphic design agencies and other high end clients and now they were dealing with an elderly SPM who didn't know what a PC was. They would put the customers on mute and take the mickey.
AS says there was a resentment towards the role of helping SPMs in 2nd line support. There were "cultural issues" of not understanding the asian SPMs they were dealing with. SPMs call them in distress saying "£15k is missing from my account" and they'd sigh and say...
... "oh another one". At teh time there were stories in the newspapers of SPMs defrauding the PO and AS says the operators would wonder just how these figures could go missing. Once somebody said "Oh I've got another Patel" and it just became a catchphrase.
AS and two others were the only people of colour on the entire floor - no one challenged this language that was being used. There was a cultural dynamic or mistrust of the SPMs and couldn't get past this to do the role they were being paid to do.
AS got through it by telling himself he was only there for a year. He was being paid quite well compared to his fellow grads. His parents said this is the world of work, and that he should just get on with it. Says he didn't get any direct racial abuse in that environment.
Finds it harder to look back on it now than it was at the time. But he would walk into a room and it would go quiet because certain individuals wanted to say something (presumably about asian SPMs) and so he would leave the room so they could say it. That's how he learned...
... to navigate his day.

None of the helpline staff had accountancy backgrounds, they were "IT people" but AS says they found themselves doing "almost live book-keeping" with them.
"The SPMs themselves were always quite frantic... stressed"

AS: We'd go to team-leaders and floor-walkers and if we couldn't get them to resolve it it would be declared as a discrepancy. We'd hear them saying they'd been putting money in themselves to balance to zero...
... but the SPMs would only call in when the figures got to big. We heard the word discrepancy all the time - it's all you'd hear all the time.

AS says there were managers sitting in the middle of the helpdesk and they would tell the helpline operators that if they couldn't...
.... sort it it had to be declared as a discrepancy.

The managers knew nothing about IT. You'd only go to them if you wanted holiday. "Other than signing holidays, I don't know what they did."
AS; There was a good few of them, they knew the floor was struggling, and it was a common gripe - it was like "what do they do?"

"It felt very much like a rudderless ship really... the lack of management in that interaction across the floor."
AS: if people genuinely were having software issues... if you've already got an inbuilt prejudice that people are incompetent or corrupt... it's much harder to entertain the idea there's a software issue. It's much easier to push down on the SPMs and say it's your problem...
... than it is to push up and ask if there was a real problem, especially as there was no one to ask.

We had SPMs crying on the phone all the time, really upset, trying to get their accounts to zero.
Sam Stein KC takes over the questioning. Asks AS to describe the physical environment he worked in.

AS - a large area. Our own desks, grouped into squads, but largely open plan.
SS did you ever see a manager discuss the behaviour of people using racial language?

AS no never. There were some very strong-willed characters there who would say what they wanted to say. We let them go. The managers never challenged them. The managers did nothing.
SS asks who AS's manager was.

AS: Geraldine McEwan

SS: Was the environment something which stopped you from taking things further?

AS: taking things further was never in my mind. I could not wait to get out of there.
AS there was no culture of understanding people from other parts of the country or cultures. It was very Yorkshire.

Sir Wyn Williams thanks AS for bringing these matters to his attention. Evidence concludes for the day. Tomorrow it's Andy Dunks - an interesting character...
... Andy Dunks used to be an Information Technology Security Analyst at Fujitsu. He was a witness in the Horizon Issues trial. Mr Justice Fraser found that Dunks “expressly sought to mislead” him in court. Dunks also...
... provided a witness statement in the prosecution of former Subpostmaster Sarah Burgess-Boyde in 2010. You might remember Ms Burgess-Boyde breaking down in tears whilst speaking to her contract manager about her discrepancy in our Radio 4 series The Great Post Office Trial....
... Dunks was one of the people who contributed to the ruin of Ms Burgess-Boyde, by providing a boilerplate Fujitsu witness statement to say there was nothing wrong with Horizon. I hope he is asked about it tomorrow. And on this occasion, does not try to mislead the listening...
... judge.

Thanks once more to the peerless @TomWitherow for alerting me to Mr Singh's evidence. Buy the Daily Mail tomorrow for more, hopefully!

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