The way the Post Office handled the Horizon IT problems was poor, and some branches had technology that was “not fit for purpose”, a confidential report has concluded.
The Horizon point of sale system has been the source of much controversy over allegedly problematic accounting – resulting in heavily disputed legal battles with sub-postmasters who claim that they have been wrongly accused of fraud. Some sub-postmasters have been sent to jail over the claims.
But despite the report’s findings, the Post Office continues to insist that there is “absolutely no evidence of systemic issues” with the Fujitsu-built system.
Problems with the IT system meant that some sub-postmasters found that their cash intake did not match the sales according to their computers’ figures.
However the report by independent forensic accountants Second Sight, seen by the BBC, said that investigators accused sub-postmasters of theft or false accounting instead of finding out the root cause of the mismatched figures.
It also said that equipment was outdated, and that power cuts and communication problems worsened the issue.
Further, the report said that training provided to sub-postmasters was not good enough for those who were not IT savvy.
The Post Office said in a statement: “Although we will not comment on the contents of any confidential documents, after two years of investigation it remains the case that there is absolutely no evidence of any systemic issues with the computer system which is used by over 78,000 people across our 11,500 branches and which successfully processes over six million transactions every day.”
The leaked report is one that has been prepared for applicants to the mediation scheme the Post Office set up for affected sub-postmasters last year.
The independent investigation into the system was launched after MPs, led by Rt Hon James Arbuthnot, put pressure on the Post Office to answer the complaints. An interim report from Second Sight did not find system-wide problems with Horizon, but did reveal that software faults in 2011 and 2012 led to shortfalls of £9,000 at 76 branches – these were refunded.