What’s in a Memoview?
For those that don’t know a Memoview is a brief message sent out to all Post Office branches to inform them of important and urgent information. It is not used often because to do so it costs POL money that is charged to them by Fujitsu which is extraordinary in itself as Memoviews often contain warnings of Fujitsu errors.
Over the last few days POL have seen fit to warn their 11,500 strong branch network of an ongoing issue with Horizon by means of said Memoviews. The messages themselves contain little detail of the actual error and I am not going to investigate to find out what has actually happened but it is the content of the messages that interests me and rings alarm bells in my head. It seems POL have learned no lessons of the past and are putting the findings of the Bates litigation to one side.
Describing ‘POL’ in a generic sense is never accurate. It can be used to infer the Board, the Legal teams and even the branch network. In this case though my use of the term refers to those people within the organisation that decided to inform the network of this recent error by Memoview and chose and authorised the form of words that appeared in it. This form of words is consistent with how ‘POL’ have used Memoviews over the years and for me at least it confirms that some of those who are responsible for the Post Office Scandal are still in office.
Last year in the House of Lords, Lord Callanan stated, “There is no question but that the Post Office management at the time behaved disgracefully but none of them is now in post.” Clearly that is wrong and as an aside there is so much else wrong with that statement but that is for another day.
Two Memoviews were issued (there may be more by the time I publish this):
‘’We are aware of an issue which may result in a mismatch on receipts and payments when you attempt to produce a stock unit or office rollover at this current time. We are working with our suppliers to resolve this as a high priority and will provide you with further information as soon as this is available. We are sorry for this inconvenience this will cause you and your customers.‘’
“The issue has been investigated and whilst we believe it has been resolved we are still investigating the impact on any branch that completed any of these transactions on Friday 12 February so would ask you to not complete a stock unit or branch rollover at this time.”
It is hard to know where to start in dissecting what is contained, and what is missing in these messages but first a general impression.
It goes back to the long term consequences of the Network Transformation program which turned out to be a complete mess. A multi billion pound project that in turn offered huge bonuses to those involved to reach the targets of converting offices to the new contracts. That in turn led to many (I would hate to put a number on it) barely literate people being appointed as subpostmasters. That is not to say literacy is a key requirement to be a successful small businessman or even a big businessman as Trump so adequately demonstrates but it serves to underscore the general contempt held by many POL staff of their Subpostmaster colleagues. It is probably the main reason that these Memoviews contain so little useful information i.e. they (the SPMRs) wouldn’t understand if we (POL) told them exactly what happened.
Vice versa, the messages, in my opinion, only strengthen my belief that there remain some key individuals in POL that have absolutely no idea what they are doing and they have been there for a long time.
“We are aware of an issue” – what issue? As an SPMR where do I look to see if I have been affected by it?
“May result” – so it affects some branches and not others how do I know if I am one?
“Receipts and Payments” – what the hell does that mean? I am a new subpostmaster I know nothing about Receipts and Payments where do I find that on Horizon? The answer is you don’t and POL don’t train you about these things and the possibility that they could go wrong. Key findings from the Horizon litigation showed that the majority of errors over the years were Receipt and Payment mismatches where the nett result was a single sided transaction in an alleged robust double entry accounting system.
The error it seems appears only when the branch or stock unit is rolled over. Interesting little bit of detail as a similar error several years ago took three years to resolve itself and the ‘fix’ that Fujitsu originally introduced did not work.
“We are working with our suppliers” – so you don’t know how to fix it yet or how bad it actually is. Having read this far the only consequence to me as an SPMR is to lift the phone and call the Help Desk to find out exactly what is going on and the missing detail of the error that should have been provided in the first place. If I were carrying out an inquiry into this error after the event one of the first things I would do would be to find out how many SPMRs actually did call in to the Help Desk. This would give a fairly accurate measure of the ‘complacency’ in the network towards Horizon and the Help Desk.
“Provide you with further information”? What idiot wrote that? Further information suggests that the preceding contents of the Memo actually contained information. I like the description from Wiki “Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty”. The memoview only promotes uncertainty.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience” – that sums up a lot. “Sorry” cuts no mustard with a franchise holder faced with additional unpaid work due to the incompetence of the franchisee. A SPMR still operates under a contract that offers no meaningful compensation for mistakes by POL and/or Fujitsu. They have no Service Level Agreement for the systems provided by the Franchisor they need to generate income and while I am at it the same franchise contracts offer no demographic protection for their business. POL can open another branch next door to them if they see fit but that is another story.
Then what is missing? The key bit of ‘information’ missing is what do I look for and what do I do if I have rolled over in the meantime? They probably can’t get through to the help desk as thousands are calling in about the Memoview as mentioned above. Perhaps POL have no idea what to do?
I need to go and get to work now but the first sentence of MV2 mortifies me in so many ways.
“The issue HAS BEEN investigated … we are STILL investigating” Speaks for itself
“We believe it has been resolved” … more than £100m was spent by POL because they failed to understand the meaning of that phrase. Does it really need to be spelled out to them? How will SPMRs ever believe that it has been resolved if POL don’t provide the level of detail that is required to prove that is the case? This from the company that ‘believed’ Horizon was reliable and robust? Thank God they aren’t in charge of an airline.