When is an audit not an audit?

When it’s carried out by the Post Office on subpostmasters!

You can hardly have missed the furore that the ITV drama Mr Bates v. The Post Office has raised. This is far from a new story, as it first happened more than 20 years ago – and the press reported on the prosecutions.

Quite apart from the unbelievable miscarriage of justice, one of the things that any good accountant must be appalled by is the so-called ‘audits’ that supposedly took place. These resulted in the subpostmaster who had been audited being told that they had a shortfall that they must either make up or be accused of either theft or false accounting. However, an audit is based on evidence and these audits failed to show any such evidence. 

The approach taken appeared to be ‘guilty unless able to prove otherwise’. Some of the sums involved were many times higher than that particular post office normally turned over – surely these anomalies should have been examined in much closer detail, and it should surely have raised suspicions that so many subpostmasters seemed to be committing fraud around the same time!

An audit is not designed to catch anyone out. It’s simply to ensure that all the systems are working correctly and that any unusual activities that show up in the finances are explained. A real auditor would have dug deeper and not just papered over the cracks.

There was clearly knowledge of the Horizon system throwing up problems or the help desk staff would not have been briefed to tell each subpostmaster complaining of problems ‘You’re the only one’. That’s why auditors are almost always external, unbiased contractors. It helps to avoid companies, or individuals within companies, using smoke and mirrors to hide problems.

Not every company requires auditing, in fact, when you’re running straightforward accounts, having an audit is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut! However, when there are oddities in the figures that can’t be explained, an audit will help to get to the bottom of the problem.

If you want to know more about the whole Post Office scandal, this website has been tracking the situation for the last few years.

Deprecated: File Theme without comments.php is deprecated since version 3.0.0 with no alternative available. Please include a comments.php template in your theme. in /home/customer/www/cookpartners.co.uk/public_html/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Leave a Reply