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MPs launch inquiry into Post Office IT

05/03/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has launched an inquiry into the controversy over the Post Office’s Horizon IT system.

Post Office sign

It said it will look at the impact on sub-postmasters and effect on the future viability of the Post Office.

Horizon has been at the centre of a long running stream of protests after its operation led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being accused of fraud, going back to the late 2000s. This led to criminal prosecutions of some of those accused.

Claims that this derived from malfunctions in Horizon, which is supplied by Fujitsu and used in post offices around the UK, eventually led to a High Court case that led to a £57.8 million settlement with 550 claimants in December 2019. Judge Mr Justice Fraser found that bugs and defects in the system had created a risk of accounting discrepancies.

Ruined lives

BEIS Committee chair Rachel Reeves MP, said: “Hundreds of sub-postmasters have suffered considerable distress, and many have had their lives ruined by the faults in the Horizon IT system.

“Following December’s High Court ruling in favour of the sub-postmasters, and the finding that Horizon was flawed, it’s right to examine what the Post Office Ltd and the Government have learned from this scandal and establish what steps they are taking to ensure something similar never happens again.

“The case also raises concerns about the damage caused to the relationship between Post Office Ltd and the sub-postmasters and about what this means for the future of our post office network. We will hear from sub-postmasters about the impact of Horizon on their lives and take the opportunity to hold executives from Post Office Ltd and Fujitsu to account for their handling of the problems around the Horizon IT and accounting system.”

Among the issues to be addressed are what damage has Horizon caused on the Post Office network, have the costs of the case adversely affected its services, and how transparent is it in its decision-making and the use of public money?

The committee is set to hold evidence hearings on 10 and 24 March, the first questioning the National Federation of Sub-postmasters, the second focused on the Post Office, Horizon supplier Fujitsu and BEIS.

Image by grassrootsgroundswell, CC BY 2.0

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