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Lone Striker

Seems sub-postmasters are still being hounded by the PO to pay up for "shortfalls" in their accounts, according to this report (its quite long, so just posting the link).   They're no longer prosecuting SPMs, but still making life miserable for them in the hope that they pay up.  Looks like the bug fixes and upgrades done to the Horizon IT system may not have solved all the issues.    

 

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/horizon-scandal-ongoing-sub-postmasters-202022770.html

 

 

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Lone Striker

Fujitsu won £1.4bn in new government contracts after High Court ruling in 2019 on Post Office software bugs

 

MPs find Treasury-affiliated bodies have engaged Horizon firm since damning 2019 high court judgment

 
 

The Japanese technology company Fujitsu, whose flawed technology for the Post Office led to the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters, is confirmed to have held contracts worth more than £3.4bn linked to the Treasury since 2019.

Figures published by the Commons’ treasury committee show £1.4bn of contracts were awarded to Treasury-affiliated organisations after a high court ruling in December 2019 over the company’s software. The judgment found that “bugs, errors and defects” in Fujitsu’s Horizon system could cause shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts.

 

More than £2bn of contracts were awarded before the judgment. These contracts continued after the ruling, but some have since concluded.

Fujitsu informed the Cabinet Office in January that it would not bid for UK public contracts pending the conclusion of the public inquiry into the Post Office scandal.

The treasury committee last month wrote to organisations including HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England (BoE) to demand details of their agreements with Fujitsu. The committee found all three had held contracts with Fujitsu Services or its global-owned entities.

HMRC awarded Fujitsu contracts worth more than £2.8bn which were active during or after the high court ruling in 2019. It now holds about £1.4bn of active contracts.

 

Toby Jones as subpostmaster Alan Bates in ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

View image in fullscreen Toby Jones as subpostmaster Alan Bates in ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Photograph: ITV

 

The FCA agreed contracts of £630m over the relevant period, but now only maintains agreements with the company or global-owned entities worth just over £9m. The BoE only had one contract in the relevant period, worth more than £417,000. It expired in August 2020.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted after Fujitsu’s accounting software made it look as though money had gone missing from their shops. The technology failures led to one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in modern legal history.

Harriett Baldwin, chair of the treasury committee, said: “We have unearthed some information which, I believe, goes beyond what is known by the Cabinet Office. I hope this will aid transparency and scrutiny around the role of Fujitsu as a public sector supplier.

“The inquiry will run its course, and it is welcome news that Fujitsu have agreed to pay towards the compensation that wrongly convicted postmasters are receiving.”

Scrutiny of the Post Office and Fujitsu has intensified since the broadcast of the ITV series last month of Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which prompted national outrage. The government has announced that innocent post office operators who were wrongfully convicted due to the Horizon scandal will have their names cleared under new laws which it says will overturn hundreds of convictions.

 

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Lone Striker
1 hour ago, Footballfirst said:

Channel 4 claiming they have evidence of government approval of PO Exec bonuses including cooperation with the inquiry.

 

https://www.channel4.com/news/government-signed-off-on-post-office-executives-bonuses

Seems to be quite a wide gap between the  rhetoric by  Govt ministers criticising PO execs for the scandal and the reality of  just waving through  PO exec salary & bonus plans.

 

There's  talk of the Govt intervening to stop privatised water companies awarding bonuses to their execs when their company inefficiencies continue to pollute rivers & beaches.  While this would be welcomed by the public, its highly  ironic that the Govt seem to have done little to prevent bonuses being paid by the organisation  they actually own.

 

 

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Joey J J Jr Shabadoo
10 hours ago, Lone Striker said:

Seems to be quite a wide gap between the  rhetoric by  Govt ministers criticising PO execs for the scandal and the reality of  just waving through  PO exec salary & bonus plans.

 

There's  talk of the Govt intervening to stop privatised water companies awarding bonuses to their execs when their company inefficiencies continue to pollute rivers & beaches.  While this would be welcomed by the public, its highly  ironic that the Govt seem to have done little to prevent bonuses being paid by the organisation  they actually own.

 

 

That's what happens when the politicians and government are the equivalent of a poor man's banana Republic.

Although the UK would improve if it was actually a Republic.

 

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il Duce McTarkin
34 minutes ago, The Mighty Thor said:

These are some set of allegations 

 

 

 

 

blair-big.jpg

 

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periodictabledancer
8 hours ago, The Mighty Thor said:

These are some set of allegations 

 

 

The Tories are ragin'.....

 

So someone has asked them under FOI what specifically was Staunton asked to do and to see the written terms of engagement that supports their rebuttal. 

 

Image

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The Mighty Thor

I see Badenoch is doubling down and calling Staunton a liar.

 

She's apparently going to publish her version of events tomorrow. Just as soon as she's made them up. 

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Footballfirst
46 minutes ago, The Mighty Thor said:

I see Badenoch is doubling down and calling Staunton a liar.

 

She's apparently going to publish her version of events tomorrow. Just as soon as she's made them up. 

Staunton said that he had made a note on file of the request. Let's hope that it was indeed recorded contemporaneously (time stamped) and also can be submitted to the inquiry, although he's not listed as a witness in the next phases.

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Footballfirst
1 hour ago, The Mighty Thor said:

I see Badenoch is doubling down and calling Staunton a liar.

 

She's apparently going to publish her version of events tomorrow. Just as soon as she's made them up. 

I was struck by Badenoch's reference to a "bandwagon".

 

It is important that the facts are not misrepresented on the basis of this interview as the Labour party (ever ready to jump on a bandwagon) is already doing

 

Methinks the lady doth protest too much, as the government now appears to support Jarnail Singh's thoughts of a "horizon bashing bandwagon".

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The Mighty Thor
5 minutes ago, Footballfirst said:

I was struck by Badenoch's reference to a "bandwagon".

 

It is important that the facts are not misrepresented on the basis of this interview as the Labour party (ever ready to jump on a bandwagon) is already doing

 

Methinks the lady doth protest too much, as the government now appears to support Jarnail Singh's thoughts of a "horizon bashing bandwagon".

Let's see what badenoch actually fronts up tomorrow.

 

I suspect she might be reverse feretting by the one o'clock gun tomorrow 

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The Mighty Thor

So Badenoch is sending the lackey in to face parliament. 

 

Could it be that she doesn't want to stand up in Parliament and get trapped into saying things on the record she can't back up?

 

 

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Joey J J Jr Shabadoo
16 minutes ago, The Mighty Thor said:

So Badenoch is sending the lackey in to face parliament. 

 

Could it be that she doesn't want to stand up in Parliament and get trapped into saying things on the record she can't back up?

 

 

Ian King, Sky news business presenter, just gave a glowing endorsement of Staunton. He said he was well respected in the city going back to Granada TV, service stations, etc, and is currently working wonders at WH Smith.

 

He didn't praise Badenoch once.

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The Mighty Thor

Well she actually turned up herself to set the record straight and unleash the evidence that Staunton lied and er..........gave a pishy speech about the comp claims.

 

No evidence. No proof. 

 

Shat it. 

 

She's lying out her rather large arse. 

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periodictabledancer
35 minutes ago, Footballfirst said:

Here is the letter Staunton received from BEIS following his appointment setting out his priorities.

 

Image 

1 is interesting - apparently Badenoch has said the govt has stumped another £150 million for the enquiry but I wonder how much of this relates to the disastrous document searches that have been badly mismanaged by POL (now we know about the two companies who've been doing the searches have been in dispute pretty much from the outset and must be costing £thousands per day in re-work). 

 

3 could do with some rework ie "TIMELY and FAIR" resolution of SPM claims. 

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The Mighty Thor
16 minutes ago, Footballfirst said:

This could get interesting.

 

Image

 

Image

 

I think there can be very few people who think anything other than Badenoch is lying her arse off. 

 

She'll double down again tomorrow. 

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Lone Striker

This Badenough woman seems to be fast-tracking herself to become Tory leader, without bothering about pesky stuff like staying in a Cabinet job  or subordinate job for longer than a year to gain relevant experience.  tbf, it was the fat tousle-haired shagger who set the standard for that approach.

 

 

 

    

 

 

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periodictabledancer
6 minutes ago, Lone Striker said:

This Badenough woman seems to be fast-tracking herself to become Tory leader, without bothering about pesky stuff like staying in a Cabinet job  or subordinate job for longer than a year to gain relevant experience.  tbf, it was the fat tousle-haired shagger who set the standard for that approach.

 

 

 

    

 

 

Well if her performance today is anything to go by she doesn't look capable of running a country club never mind a country.

 

Her vicious attempt at destroying Staunton's criticisms have got her nowhere. He's come out, guns blazing, and basically called her a liar....

 

 
 
 
This is Henry Staunton’s reply to Kemi Badenoch.
Firstly, with regard to the comment made to Mr Staunton by the senior civil servant to the effect that he was to stall on compensation payments to Horizon victims and on spend on the Horizon replacement so the government could “limp into the election” with the lowest possible financial liability. Mr Staunton stands by this comment which he recorded at the time in a file note which he emailed to himself and to colleagues and which is therefore traceable on the Post Office Server.
Secondly, Mr Stanton stands by his characterisation of the conversation with the Secretary of State in which he was informed of his dismissal.
Thirdly, with regard to the alleged failure to observe due process in respect of the proposed appointment of a senior independent director, this is once again a mischaracterisation of the situation. What happened was that the Government via the UKGI had proposed for the post an external candidate with Whitehall experience. Initially the Board acquiesced, but when it came to the Board for discussion, because so much had happened in the intervening four weeks the Board voted 6-2 to express clear preference to appoint a well qualified and in their view better qualified internal candidate, Andrew Dafoor who was already a director, and understood the issues. The 6 included the chief executive. Of the two dissenters one was the UKGI representative. Mr Staunton informed the Board that they would now have to go through a due process including a nomination committee, Board and shareholder approval process and could not simply impose their preferred candidate. This was all at an early stage in the consultations, and could not be characterised as a breach of due process.
Fourthly, with regard to allegations of bullying behaviour, this is the first time the existence of such allegations have been mentioned, and Mr Staunton is not aware of any aspect of his conduct which could give rise to such allegations. They were certainly not raised by the Secretary of State at any stage and certainly not during the conversation which led to Mr Staunton’s dismissal. Such behaviour would in any case be totally out of character. With regard to the appointment letter which the Department has chosen to publish, it should be noted that the reference to settlement with claimants is one of a number of issues arising out of the Horizon issue that are listed and not necessarily the most prominent. It should also be noted that if indeed the Secretary of State were concerned about the lack of urgency with which it was being addressed, this was never raised in any of the quarterly review meetings to assess progress against these objectives. These meetings were fully minuted.
Last but not least, it should be noted that the Secretary of State has admitted that a letter was sent by the Post Office CEO to Alex Chalk setting out a legal opinion stating the reason so few sub-postmasters had come forward to have their convictions overturned was because they were “guilty as charged”. That letter was set after the ITV documentary was screened and after the government had set out a pledge to bring forward legislation to exonerate the postmasters. As chairman, Mr Staunton championed the cause of the postmasters who he saw as the real backbone of the organisation and the best hope for the future. As a number of recent press articles have indicated, historically postmasters were treated with contempt by much of the Post Office hierarchy, those attitudes were deeply entrenched and Mr Staunton fought hard with their representatives on the Board and others including the CEO to change that culture. Mr Staunton said: “It was in the interests of the business as well as being fair for the postmasters that there was faster progress on exoneration and that compensation for wrongly convicted postmasters was more generous, but we didn’t see any real movement until after the Mister Bates programme.”

 

 

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Lone Striker
30 minutes ago, periodictabledancer said:

Well if her performance today is anything to go by she doesn't look capable of running a country club never mind a country.

 

 

Again, the fat tousle-haired shagger blazed that trail too :whistling:

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Cameron government knew Post Office ditched Horizon IT investigation

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Graphic showing the Post Office logo and Westminster

By Andy Verity
BBC economics correspondent
 

David Cameron's government knew the Post Office had ditched a secret investigation that might have helped wrongly accused postmasters prove their innocence, the BBC can reveal.

The 2016 investigation trawled 17 years of records to find out how often, and why, cash accounts on the Horizon IT system had been tampered with remotely.

Ministers were told an investigation was happening.

But after postmasters began legal action, it was suddenly stopped.

The secret investigation adds to evidence that the Post Office knew Horizon's creator, Fujitsu, could remotely fiddle with sub-postmaster's cash accounts - even as it argued in court, two years later, that it was impossible.

The revelations have prompted an accusation that the Post Office may have broken the law - and the government did nothing to prevent it. Paul Marshall, a barrister who represented some sub-postmasters, said: "On the face of it, it discloses a conspiracy by the Post Office to pervert the course of justice."

Senopathy Narenthiran, known as Naren, a convicted sub-postmaster from Ramsgate in Kent who joined the legal action, wiped away a tear as he learned about the information that might have helped his case.

"By knowing all this, why do we waste all our time in the prison and separate from our family? I don't know," he told the BBC. "I'm 69 years old - too old to go through all these things."

 

Senopathy Narenthiran Image caption, 

Sub-postmaster Senopathy Narenthiran, who was sentenced to three years in prison, wiped away a tear as the BBC outlined the new evidence

The secret investigation was uncovered through a BBC analysis of confidential government documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, from a time in 2015 and 2016 when the Post Office was under growing pressure to get to the bottom of sub-postmasters' claims of injustice.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters had been prosecuted and jailed for cash shortfalls which were in fact caused by the Horizon IT system. They had long suspected that remote tinkering may have contributed to the problem.

The documents show how the secret 2016 investigation - looking into Fujitsu's use of remote access from 1999 onwards - had come out of a review by former top Treasury lawyer Jonathan Swift QC. The Swift review had been ordered by the government, with approval from then-business secretary Sajid Javid. 

It would conclude that it had found "real issues" for the Post Office.

Mr Swift had found a briefing for the Post Office board from an earlier review in 2014, carried out by auditors from Deloitte and codenamed Project Zebra, detailing how Fujitsu could change branch accounts.

Having seen that evidence, the Swift review said the Post Office must carry out a further investigation into how often and why this capability was used.

Deloitte returned in February 2016 to begin the trawl of all Horizon transactions since its launch 17 years earlier.

Ministers, including Mr Javid, were told this new work was under way to "address suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge".

But in June 2016, when sub-postmasters launched their legal action, the government was told through Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe that the investigation had been scrapped on "very strong advice" from the senior barrister representing them.

 

Graphic showing images of key government figures and the dates they held office: Prime Minister David Cameron (2010-16), Business Secretary Sajid Javid (2015-16), Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe (2014-16)

There is no evidence in the documents that then-prime minister David Cameron knew about the investigation or that it had been ditched.

It meant that over two years, the Post Office had spent millions of pounds on three separate reviews into remote access - Project Zebra, the Swift review and the 2016 Deloitte investigation - while publicly claiming it was impossible.

But all three were buried by the Post Office. Neither the Swift review nor Project Zebra were disclosed to sub-postmasters, depriving them of vital information that could have helped them in court; and the Deloitte investigation was halted before it could deliver its findings. 

 

Short presentational grey line

Project Zebra, the first of the three reviews, was described as a "desktop review". The Post Office board had hoped it would give "comfort about the Horizon system" to them and others outside the business who had concerns about it. 

The consultants examined Horizon documents and talked to employees at Fujitsu and the Post Office to check how the system was functioning and whether it was achieving its objectives.

Unredacted documents obtained by the BBC show that in April 2014, members of a sub-committee of the Post Office board discussed Deloitte's Project Zebra work. 

The sub-committee included chief executive Paula Vennells, general counsel Chris Aujard and Richard Callard, a senior civil servant at the government body which owned the Post Office.

 

Graphic showing Post Office management and the dates they were in post: Chris Aujade, general counsel (2013-15) and Paula Vennells, chief executive (2012-19)

The next month, Deloitte submitted its full report and in June it wrote a briefing for the Post Office board, which outlined two separate ways Fujitsu could alter branch accounts. Extracts from the board briefing are quoted verbatim by the Swift review but the briefing itself has not been released.

It said the auditors had learned that authorised Fujitsu staff with the right database access privileges could use fake digital signatures or keys to delete, create or amend data on customer purchases that had been electronically signed by sub-postmasters. Fujitsu staff could then "re-sign it with a fake key".

Deloitte said Fujitsu staff had also been able to correct errors using an emergency process known as a "balancing transaction", which can "create transactions directly in branch ledgers".

It noted the process "does not require positive acceptance or approval by the sub-postmaster".

Yet the findings of Project Zebra were never disclosed to investigating accountants Second Sight who, since 2012, had been publicly tasked by the Post Office with looking in to sub-postmasters' claims. 

The Post Office continued to claim for a further five years that it was impossible for remote tinkering by Fujitsu to alter cash balances in Post Office branch accounts.

In 2015, it lied to BBC executives as it sought to prevent the broadcast of the first Panorama expose of the scandal, briefing them that there was "simply no evidence" that remote tinkering by Fujitsu could have caused branch losses.

The documents that have now been analysed by the BBC reveal that following the Panorama broadcast, Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe wrote to the incoming chairman, Tim Parker, asking him to give the concerns about possible miscarriages of justice his "earliest attention" and take any necessary action. Business Secretary Sajid Javid approved the letter. 

 

Graphic showing members of the Post Office board and the dates they served: Tim Parker, chairman (2015-22), Richard Callard, representing the government on the board (2014-18)

Mr Parker said he would undertake a review of the Horizon system and "various claims that sub-postmasters had been wrongly prosecuted as a result of faults in the system", according to a briefing sent to Mr Javid on 20 November 2015, which was heavily redacted in the released documents. 

Mr Parker appointed Jonathan Swift QC and barrister Christopher Knight. They were so concerned about the implications of the Project Zebra documents, they said it was "incumbent" on the Post Office to find out how often these two means of altering branch accounts had been used, "in the light of the consistent impression given that they don't exist at all".

The Swift review, dated 8 February 2016, noted that the Post Office "had always known" about the balancing transaction capability.

It also said the Post Office may be obliged by law to show the documents to postmasters who were seeking to overturn their convictions.

In response to a recommendation in the Swift review, Deloitte was asked within days to return to the Post Office to carry out a full independent review of Horizon, following up on its work on Project Zebra. 

The mammoth and expensive task was to trawl back through all the transactions since Horizon began operating - work which was anticipated to take three months.

 

Graphic showing extract from the Swift review with highlighted passage saying: "the wider ability of Fujitsu to 'fake' digital signatures are contrary to the public assurances provided by Fujitsu and POL" - referring to Post Office Limited

In a letter of 4 March 2016, Post Office chair Tim Parker wrote to Baroness Neville-Rolfe about the Swift review's findings and recommendations. That included informing her about Deloitte's follow-up work. 

He said it would "address suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge" and review "security controls governing access to the digitally sealed electronic audit store of branch accounts".

He added that he had "commissioned independent persons to undertake the necessary work", and in a later briefing informed the minister that this was Deloitte.

The letter did not explicitly mention Project Zebra or Deloitte's earlier findings about how branch accounts could be remotely altered. 

In April, the Post Office notified the government that the sub-postmasters had begun their group legal action against it. Baroness Neville-Rolfe and Mr Javid were sent a briefing, updating them on the investigation's progress and discussing how the legal action would affect it.

The briefing, sent before a meeting with Mr Parker, was heavily redacted when it was released under a Freedom of Information Act request. But it said Mr Parker was on track to complete the follow-up work by the end of May and would update Baroness Neville-Rolfe on its progress.

However, the documents seen by the BBC reveal that in June, Deloitte's three-month investigation was suddenly stopped just before it could be completed. 

On 21 June 2016, Tim Parker told Baroness Neville-Rolfe he had taken the decision on the advice of an unnamed senior barrister for the Post Office.

He told her the detailed work being carried out by Deloitte was "complex, costly and time consuming" but that good progress had been made. "I had hoped that by now I would be in a position to draw my investigation to a close," Mr Parker wrote.

"However, given the High Court proceedings to which I refer above, Post Office Limited has received very strong advice from Leading Counsel that the work being undertaken under the aegis of my review should come to an immediate end… I have therefore instructed that the work being undertaken pursuant to my review should now be stopped."

 

Graphic of letter from Tim Parker to Baroness Neville-Rolfe with highlighted text reading: "I have therefore instructed that the work being undertaken pursuant to my review should now be stopped."

In response to the BBC's questions, Mr Parker said he had "sought and acted upon the legal advice he was given", but said it would not be appropriate to comment further while the public inquiry into the Horizon scandal was ongoing.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the BBC she had said publicly that she had instructed the Post Office chairman to commission an independent review, but declined to comment further while the inquiry was ongoing. Mr Javid also declined to comment because of the public inquiry.

In his High Court judgment at the end of the sub-postmasters' legal action in 2019, judge Sir Peter Fraser found the Post Office's defence claim - that Fujitsu could not insert transactions in branch accounts - was "simply untrue". He said the Post Office had "expressly denied" that remote access was possible "and that denial is now shown to be wrong".

The barrister who represented a number of wrongly prosecuted sub-postmasters, Mr Marshall, told the BBC it looked as though the Post Office had conspired to pervert the course of justice.

"The important feature of all of this is that in 2014, it appears that the Post Office board was alive to the true position - that remote access by Fujitsu was possible," he said.

"And yet the Post Office board was responsible for maintaining and advancing the Post Office's defence to the sub-postmasters' claim in 2019 - that it was impossible. That was false - and, it would appear, known to be so."

 

Sub-postmasters' celebrating their convictions being overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2021IMAGE SOURCE, PA MEDIA Image caption, 

Sub-postmasters' victory in the High Court in 2019 paved the way for many to overturn their convictions on appeal

Paula Vennells, the former chief executive of the Post Office, did not respond to the BBC's requests for comment. Chris Aujard, then Post Office general counsel, and Richard Callard, the civil servant who represented the government on the board, declined to comment while the public inquiry was ongoing.

UK Government Investments (UKGI), the government body which owns the Post Office, addressed what the board knew about these successive reviews and investigations in an opening statement in 2022 to the ongoing public inquiry into the Horizon scandal.

It said there was no indication in the minutes of the Post Office board meeting in June 2014 that the board had received the Project Zebra briefing. UKGI said Mr Callard "does not recall ever receiving such a briefing".

The statement said the board had not asked for a copy of Deloitte's full report at the time of Project Zebra. UKGI said the board had been given an executive summary by the Post Office general counsel Chris Aujard, which was "focused on Deloitte's approach to the review but importantly did not set out its findings".

It said the board had also never received the 2016 Swift report, nor been briefed in detail on its findings. The statement said Tim Parker did not send Swift's full report to the Post Office Board and that his letter of 4 March 2016 to Baroness Neville-Rolfe did not make clear how serious the Swift review's findings were. 

The revelations uncovered by the BBC also raise serious questions for the public inquiry by Sir Wyn Williams, as to whether it is adequately scrutinising what the government knew about the Post Office's internal investigations.

In UKGI's 2022 statement to the inquiry, there was no reference to Tim Parker's letter to Baroness Neville-Rolfe of 21 June 2016, notifying her he was calling off Deloitte's investigation.

In 2018, two years after completing his review, Sir Jonathan Swift, formerly First Treasury Counsel - the top civil lawyer at Her Majesty's Treasury - was appointed to be a High Court judge. He received a knighthood in the same year.

However, in the list of upcoming witnesses at the Williams inquiry, his name is absent.

 

Custom divider with an envelope motif

Timeline: What ministers knew and when

June 2014: Deloitte submits a briefing for the Post Office board on Project Zebra, outlining how Fujitsu can alter branch accounts or change records of transactions remotely.

10 September 2015: Business Secretary Sajid Javid approves a letter from Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe to Post Office chair Tim Parker, urging him to take "any necessary action" about Horizon, after a Panorama whistleblower reveals how Fujitsu can remotely alter postmaster's accounts.

20 November 2015: Mr Javid is briefed that Mr Parker is undertaking a review into the Post Office IT system to look into claims that sub-postmasters have been wrongly prosecuted as a result of faults in the system.

8 February 2016: The resulting report by Jonathan Swift QC and barrister Christopher Knightrecommends a full independent investigation into how often and why Fujitsu altered accounts and records "throughout the lifetime" of Horizon.

4 March 2016: Mr Parker tells Baroness Neville-Rolfe and Mr Javid he has commissioned "independent persons" to address "suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge".

21 June 2016: In a letter, Mr Parker tells Baroness Neville-Rolfe that in the light of the sub-postmasters' group legal action, on "very strong advice from leading counsel", the investigation by Deloitte has been immediately stopped. It never completes its work.

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Joey J J Jr Shabadoo
2 hours ago, Des Lynam said:

Cameron government knew Post Office ditched Horizon IT investigation

  • Published
    10 hours ago
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Related Topics
 

Graphic showing the Post Office logo and Westminster

By Andy Verity
BBC economics correspondent
 

David Cameron's government knew the Post Office had ditched a secret investigation that might have helped wrongly accused postmasters prove their innocence, the BBC can reveal.

The 2016 investigation trawled 17 years of records to find out how often, and why, cash accounts on the Horizon IT system had been tampered with remotely.

Ministers were told an investigation was happening.

But after postmasters began legal action, it was suddenly stopped.

The secret investigation adds to evidence that the Post Office knew Horizon's creator, Fujitsu, could remotely fiddle with sub-postmaster's cash accounts - even as it argued in court, two years later, that it was impossible.

The revelations have prompted an accusation that the Post Office may have broken the law - and the government did nothing to prevent it. Paul Marshall, a barrister who represented some sub-postmasters, said: "On the face of it, it discloses a conspiracy by the Post Office to pervert the course of justice."

Senopathy Narenthiran, known as Naren, a convicted sub-postmaster from Ramsgate in Kent who joined the legal action, wiped away a tear as he learned about the information that might have helped his case.

"By knowing all this, why do we waste all our time in the prison and separate from our family? I don't know," he told the BBC. "I'm 69 years old - too old to go through all these things."

 

Senopathy Narenthiran Image caption, 

Sub-postmaster Senopathy Narenthiran, who was sentenced to three years in prison, wiped away a tear as the BBC outlined the new evidence

The secret investigation was uncovered through a BBC analysis of confidential government documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, from a time in 2015 and 2016 when the Post Office was under growing pressure to get to the bottom of sub-postmasters' claims of injustice.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters had been prosecuted and jailed for cash shortfalls which were in fact caused by the Horizon IT system. They had long suspected that remote tinkering may have contributed to the problem.

The documents show how the secret 2016 investigation - looking into Fujitsu's use of remote access from 1999 onwards - had come out of a review by former top Treasury lawyer Jonathan Swift QC. The Swift review had been ordered by the government, with approval from then-business secretary Sajid Javid. 

It would conclude that it had found "real issues" for the Post Office.

Mr Swift had found a briefing for the Post Office board from an earlier review in 2014, carried out by auditors from Deloitte and codenamed Project Zebra, detailing how Fujitsu could change branch accounts.

Having seen that evidence, the Swift review said the Post Office must carry out a further investigation into how often and why this capability was used.

Deloitte returned in February 2016 to begin the trawl of all Horizon transactions since its launch 17 years earlier.

Ministers, including Mr Javid, were told this new work was under way to "address suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge".

But in June 2016, when sub-postmasters launched their legal action, the government was told through Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe that the investigation had been scrapped on "very strong advice" from the senior barrister representing them.

 

Graphic showing images of key government figures and the dates they held office: Prime Minister David Cameron (2010-16), Business Secretary Sajid Javid (2015-16), Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe (2014-16)

There is no evidence in the documents that then-prime minister David Cameron knew about the investigation or that it had been ditched.

It meant that over two years, the Post Office had spent millions of pounds on three separate reviews into remote access - Project Zebra, the Swift review and the 2016 Deloitte investigation - while publicly claiming it was impossible.

But all three were buried by the Post Office. Neither the Swift review nor Project Zebra were disclosed to sub-postmasters, depriving them of vital information that could have helped them in court; and the Deloitte investigation was halted before it could deliver its findings. 

 

Short presentational grey line

Project Zebra, the first of the three reviews, was described as a "desktop review". The Post Office board had hoped it would give "comfort about the Horizon system" to them and others outside the business who had concerns about it. 

The consultants examined Horizon documents and talked to employees at Fujitsu and the Post Office to check how the system was functioning and whether it was achieving its objectives.

Unredacted documents obtained by the BBC show that in April 2014, members of a sub-committee of the Post Office board discussed Deloitte's Project Zebra work. 

The sub-committee included chief executive Paula Vennells, general counsel Chris Aujard and Richard Callard, a senior civil servant at the government body which owned the Post Office.

 

Graphic showing Post Office management and the dates they were in post: Chris Aujade, general counsel (2013-15) and Paula Vennells, chief executive (2012-19)

The next month, Deloitte submitted its full report and in June it wrote a briefing for the Post Office board, which outlined two separate ways Fujitsu could alter branch accounts. Extracts from the board briefing are quoted verbatim by the Swift review but the briefing itself has not been released.

It said the auditors had learned that authorised Fujitsu staff with the right database access privileges could use fake digital signatures or keys to delete, create or amend data on customer purchases that had been electronically signed by sub-postmasters. Fujitsu staff could then "re-sign it with a fake key".

Deloitte said Fujitsu staff had also been able to correct errors using an emergency process known as a "balancing transaction", which can "create transactions directly in branch ledgers".

It noted the process "does not require positive acceptance or approval by the sub-postmaster".

Yet the findings of Project Zebra were never disclosed to investigating accountants Second Sight who, since 2012, had been publicly tasked by the Post Office with looking in to sub-postmasters' claims. 

The Post Office continued to claim for a further five years that it was impossible for remote tinkering by Fujitsu to alter cash balances in Post Office branch accounts.

In 2015, it lied to BBC executives as it sought to prevent the broadcast of the first Panorama expose of the scandal, briefing them that there was "simply no evidence" that remote tinkering by Fujitsu could have caused branch losses.

The documents that have now been analysed by the BBC reveal that following the Panorama broadcast, Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe wrote to the incoming chairman, Tim Parker, asking him to give the concerns about possible miscarriages of justice his "earliest attention" and take any necessary action. Business Secretary Sajid Javid approved the letter. 

 

Graphic showing members of the Post Office board and the dates they served: Tim Parker, chairman (2015-22), Richard Callard, representing the government on the board (2014-18)

Mr Parker said he would undertake a review of the Horizon system and "various claims that sub-postmasters had been wrongly prosecuted as a result of faults in the system", according to a briefing sent to Mr Javid on 20 November 2015, which was heavily redacted in the released documents. 

Mr Parker appointed Jonathan Swift QC and barrister Christopher Knight. They were so concerned about the implications of the Project Zebra documents, they said it was "incumbent" on the Post Office to find out how often these two means of altering branch accounts had been used, "in the light of the consistent impression given that they don't exist at all".

The Swift review, dated 8 February 2016, noted that the Post Office "had always known" about the balancing transaction capability.

It also said the Post Office may be obliged by law to show the documents to postmasters who were seeking to overturn their convictions.

In response to a recommendation in the Swift review, Deloitte was asked within days to return to the Post Office to carry out a full independent review of Horizon, following up on its work on Project Zebra. 

The mammoth and expensive task was to trawl back through all the transactions since Horizon began operating - work which was anticipated to take three months.

 

Graphic showing extract from the Swift review with highlighted passage saying: "the wider ability of Fujitsu to 'fake' digital signatures are contrary to the public assurances provided by Fujitsu and POL" - referring to Post Office Limited

In a letter of 4 March 2016, Post Office chair Tim Parker wrote to Baroness Neville-Rolfe about the Swift review's findings and recommendations. That included informing her about Deloitte's follow-up work. 

He said it would "address suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge" and review "security controls governing access to the digitally sealed electronic audit store of branch accounts".

He added that he had "commissioned independent persons to undertake the necessary work", and in a later briefing informed the minister that this was Deloitte.

The letter did not explicitly mention Project Zebra or Deloitte's earlier findings about how branch accounts could be remotely altered. 

In April, the Post Office notified the government that the sub-postmasters had begun their group legal action against it. Baroness Neville-Rolfe and Mr Javid were sent a briefing, updating them on the investigation's progress and discussing how the legal action would affect it.

The briefing, sent before a meeting with Mr Parker, was heavily redacted when it was released under a Freedom of Information Act request. But it said Mr Parker was on track to complete the follow-up work by the end of May and would update Baroness Neville-Rolfe on its progress.

However, the documents seen by the BBC reveal that in June, Deloitte's three-month investigation was suddenly stopped just before it could be completed. 

On 21 June 2016, Tim Parker told Baroness Neville-Rolfe he had taken the decision on the advice of an unnamed senior barrister for the Post Office.

He told her the detailed work being carried out by Deloitte was "complex, costly and time consuming" but that good progress had been made. "I had hoped that by now I would be in a position to draw my investigation to a close," Mr Parker wrote.

"However, given the High Court proceedings to which I refer above, Post Office Limited has received very strong advice from Leading Counsel that the work being undertaken under the aegis of my review should come to an immediate end… I have therefore instructed that the work being undertaken pursuant to my review should now be stopped."

 

Graphic of letter from Tim Parker to Baroness Neville-Rolfe with highlighted text reading: "I have therefore instructed that the work being undertaken pursuant to my review should now be stopped."

In response to the BBC's questions, Mr Parker said he had "sought and acted upon the legal advice he was given", but said it would not be appropriate to comment further while the public inquiry into the Horizon scandal was ongoing.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the BBC she had said publicly that she had instructed the Post Office chairman to commission an independent review, but declined to comment further while the inquiry was ongoing. Mr Javid also declined to comment because of the public inquiry.

In his High Court judgment at the end of the sub-postmasters' legal action in 2019, judge Sir Peter Fraser found the Post Office's defence claim - that Fujitsu could not insert transactions in branch accounts - was "simply untrue". He said the Post Office had "expressly denied" that remote access was possible "and that denial is now shown to be wrong".

The barrister who represented a number of wrongly prosecuted sub-postmasters, Mr Marshall, told the BBC it looked as though the Post Office had conspired to pervert the course of justice.

"The important feature of all of this is that in 2014, it appears that the Post Office board was alive to the true position - that remote access by Fujitsu was possible," he said.

"And yet the Post Office board was responsible for maintaining and advancing the Post Office's defence to the sub-postmasters' claim in 2019 - that it was impossible. That was false - and, it would appear, known to be so."

 

Sub-postmasters' celebrating their convictions being overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2021IMAGE SOURCE, PA MEDIA Image caption, 

Sub-postmasters' victory in the High Court in 2019 paved the way for many to overturn their convictions on appeal

Paula Vennells, the former chief executive of the Post Office, did not respond to the BBC's requests for comment. Chris Aujard, then Post Office general counsel, and Richard Callard, the civil servant who represented the government on the board, declined to comment while the public inquiry was ongoing.

UK Government Investments (UKGI), the government body which owns the Post Office, addressed what the board knew about these successive reviews and investigations in an opening statement in 2022 to the ongoing public inquiry into the Horizon scandal.

It said there was no indication in the minutes of the Post Office board meeting in June 2014 that the board had received the Project Zebra briefing. UKGI said Mr Callard "does not recall ever receiving such a briefing".

The statement said the board had not asked for a copy of Deloitte's full report at the time of Project Zebra. UKGI said the board had been given an executive summary by the Post Office general counsel Chris Aujard, which was "focused on Deloitte's approach to the review but importantly did not set out its findings".

It said the board had also never received the 2016 Swift report, nor been briefed in detail on its findings. The statement said Tim Parker did not send Swift's full report to the Post Office Board and that his letter of 4 March 2016 to Baroness Neville-Rolfe did not make clear how serious the Swift review's findings were. 

The revelations uncovered by the BBC also raise serious questions for the public inquiry by Sir Wyn Williams, as to whether it is adequately scrutinising what the government knew about the Post Office's internal investigations.

In UKGI's 2022 statement to the inquiry, there was no reference to Tim Parker's letter to Baroness Neville-Rolfe of 21 June 2016, notifying her he was calling off Deloitte's investigation.

In 2018, two years after completing his review, Sir Jonathan Swift, formerly First Treasury Counsel - the top civil lawyer at Her Majesty's Treasury - was appointed to be a High Court judge. He received a knighthood in the same year.

However, in the list of upcoming witnesses at the Williams inquiry, his name is absent.

 

Custom divider with an envelope motif

Timeline: What ministers knew and when

June 2014: Deloitte submits a briefing for the Post Office board on Project Zebra, outlining how Fujitsu can alter branch accounts or change records of transactions remotely.

10 September 2015: Business Secretary Sajid Javid approves a letter from Post Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe to Post Office chair Tim Parker, urging him to take "any necessary action" about Horizon, after a Panorama whistleblower reveals how Fujitsu can remotely alter postmaster's accounts.

20 November 2015: Mr Javid is briefed that Mr Parker is undertaking a review into the Post Office IT system to look into claims that sub-postmasters have been wrongly prosecuted as a result of faults in the system.

8 February 2016: The resulting report by Jonathan Swift QC and barrister Christopher Knightrecommends a full independent investigation into how often and why Fujitsu altered accounts and records "throughout the lifetime" of Horizon.

4 March 2016: Mr Parker tells Baroness Neville-Rolfe and Mr Javid he has commissioned "independent persons" to address "suggestions that branch accounts might have been remotely altered without complainants' knowledge".

21 June 2016: In a letter, Mr Parker tells Baroness Neville-Rolfe that in the light of the sub-postmasters' group legal action, on "very strong advice from leading counsel", the investigation by Deloitte has been immediately stopped. It never completes its work.

Who could have thought that bringing back a podgy man, who makes love to dead pigs, would be a controversial appointment? 🤔

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Footballfirst

Staunton has now found the memo of his meeting with the civil servant.

 

Needless to say, the government now takes the position that the financial issues were general, rather than specific to the compensation schemes.

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It's almost as if that refinement to the outright denial was created in advance.  Just in case,  likes.

 

:interehjrling:

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SectionDJambo

Sunak was asked 4 or 5 questions relating to the Horizon scandal and the presentation of his business Secretary, at the despatch box yesterday, during today's PMQs. He didn't answer any of them. Maybe Starmer should have just used one of his questions to ask him just to fully answer the previous question without waffling on about something else.

First time I've watched PMQs for a while. It'll be a longer while before I bother again.

One guy stood up and exclaimed that because the people of Romford didn't want to rejoin the EU, extremely unlikely though that is, there should be absolutely no prospect of the rest of us maybe having second thoughts. All to great cheers from his mates.  Imagine if Stephen Flynn stood up and said that because the people in Glasgow, for example, want Scottish independence, it should happen, nomatter the wishes of the rest of Scotland. Their brains are boiled. 

 

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Footballfirst

Here is the full text of Staunton's file note from his conversation with Sarah Munby.

 

‘My file note as promised . I have not copied to anymore but will cover with Board colleagues at the Board orally .

Henry >

> Sarah asked for first impressions , i said i had been on over a dozen public company Boards and not seen one with so many challenges . >

I focussed on the financing and Network challenges : >

- On Financing we had identified in Sept a deficit of £210m . After much effort we had identified savings of £170m ( mainly out of the change budget , cap exp and exceptionals ) . However since then extra costs of £120m have arisen : from Horizon £60 m( training needs esp with Inquiry ) ; Inquiry £30 m ( taking longer ) ; and telephony/Internet £30m . In total we have a shortfall therefore of £160 m …..and this before the deficit arising from the material downturn in the parcels business , and to a lesser extent from the implications for our cash business of the FCA Money Laundering regs on deposits . >

- there was a likelihood of a significant reduction in post offices if more funding was not required . Last year half of all Post Offices were either loss making or earning less than £5,000 profit . The position would have deteriorated substantially because of increase in Minimum Wage and fuel /electricity prices .

A recent survey indicated that one third of PMs would hand back their keys over the next 5 years and that figure would now be higher because of extra costs . The reputational consequences for PO and for Government were fraught . >

Sarah was sympathetic to all of the above . She understood the” huge commercial challenge “ and the “ seriousness “ of the financial position . She described “ all the options as unattractive “ . However , “ politicians do not necessarily like to confront reality “. This particularly applied when there was no obvious “ route to profitability “ . >

She said we needed to know that in the run up to the election there was no appetite to “ rip off the band aid “ . “ Now was not the time for dealing with long term issues “ . We needed a plan to “ hobble “ up to the election . >

Having said that we and BEIS needed to do the long term thinking for a new Government of whichever colour . This would include what is politically acceptable wrt the size of the network . . She also referred to “ operational “ issues colouring HMT’s thinking. ( “Trust” in the PO Board and management has not been high .) They could see this as another “ begging bowl “ request from the PO . I said the funding issues revolved around poor decisions made many years ago wrt Horizon and related legal issues . >

> With regard to the forthcoming meeting with the SoS she gave some advice . He is nice and easy but not interested in meetings . He prefers the written form . We should expect him to be “ pushy and demanding “ as he was with the train operators whilst SoS for Transport . He would “ hold us to account “ . He will take a hard line on pay . So far Sarah’s efforts on pay have fallen on deaf ears .

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periodictabledancer
4 hours ago, Footballfirst said:

Here is the full text of Staunton's file note from his conversation with Sarah Munby.

 

‘My file note as promised . I have not copied to anymore but will cover with Board colleagues at the Board orally .

Henry >

> Sarah asked for first impressions , i said i had been on over a dozen public company Boards and not seen one with so many challenges . >

I focussed on the financing and Network challenges : >

- On Financing we had identified in Sept a deficit of £210m . After much effort we had identified savings of £170m ( mainly out of the change budget , cap exp and exceptionals ) . However since then extra costs of £120m have arisen : from Horizon £60 m( training needs esp with Inquiry ) ; Inquiry £30 m ( taking longer ) ; and telephony/Internet £30m . In total we have a shortfall therefore of £160 m …..and this before the deficit arising from the material downturn in the parcels business , and to a lesser extent from the implications for our cash business of the FCA Money Laundering regs on deposits . >

- there was a likelihood of a significant reduction in post offices if more funding was not required . Last year half of all Post Offices were either loss making or earning less than £5,000 profit . The position would have deteriorated substantially because of increase in Minimum Wage and fuel /electricity prices .

A recent survey indicated that one third of PMs would hand back their keys over the next 5 years and that figure would now be higher because of extra costs . The reputational consequences for PO and for Government were fraught . >

Sarah was sympathetic to all of the above . She understood the” huge commercial challenge “ and the “ seriousness “ of the financial position . She described “ all the options as unattractive “ . However , “ politicians do not necessarily like to confront reality “. This particularly applied when there was no obvious “ route to profitability “ . >

She said we needed to know that in the run up to the election there was no appetite to “ rip off the band aid “ . “ Now was not the time for dealing with long term issues “ . We needed a plan to “ hobble “ up to the election . >

Having said that we and BEIS needed to do the long term thinking for a new Government of whichever colour . This would include what is politically acceptable wrt the size of the network . . She also referred to “ operational “ issues colouring HMT’s thinking. ( “Trust” in the PO Board and management has not been high .) They could see this as another “ begging bowl “ request from the PO . I said the funding issues revolved around poor decisions made many years ago wrt Horizon and related legal issues . >

> With regard to the forthcoming meeting with the SoS she gave some advice . He is nice and easy but not interested in meetings . He prefers the written form . We should expect him to be “ pushy and demanding “ as he was with the train operators whilst SoS for Transport . He would “ hold us to account “ . He will take a hard line on pay . So far Sarah’s efforts on pay have fallen on deaf ears .

Badenoch is not going to get the better of Staunton. 

Her spohistry & misdirection aren't working and she should have known Staunton would have the evidence to back his claims. 

Also interesting to see the civil servant involved is now trying to distance herself from what was said.

Edited by periodictabledancer
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Footballfirst
2 minutes ago, periodictabledancer said:

Badenoch is not going to get the better of Staunton. 

Her spohistry & misdirection aren't working and she should have known Staunton would have the evidence to back his claims. 

Also interesting to see the civil servant involved is now trying to distance herself from what was said.

Munby has also sought to refute Staunton's claims in a letter to Badenoch.

 

It's a 6 page letter, so I will only post the link.

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65d62c5a2ab2b3001a75968f/sarah-munby-letter-to-business-secretary-regarding-post-office-governance-21-february_1.pdf

 

 

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periodictabledancer
1 minute ago, Footballfirst said:

Munby has also sought to refute Staunton's claims in a letter to Badenoch.

 

It's a 6 page letter, so I will only post the link.

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65d62c5a2ab2b3001a75968f/sarah-munby-letter-to-business-secretary-regarding-post-office-governance-21-february_1.pdf

 

 

Cheers.

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Footballfirst
1 hour ago, periodictabledancer said:

Cheers.

Staunton has now issued a rebuttal of Munby's rebuttal.

 

Statement regarding the Sarah Munby Memo

Mr Staunton’s recollection of the conversation was very clear. It was precisely because he felt what he was being told about the government’s view of the issues was so surprising, that he needed to take a note of the conversation immediately afterwards and share it with his chief executive.

The clear message he took away from that conversation was that rather than tackling head on the two key issues which the Post Office faced, namely the cost of replacement of the Horizon IT system and the cost of meeting the compensation for the wrongly convicted postmasters, which would have been his preferred course of action, and would have allowed the Post Office to draw a line under the issues and move on, some way needed to be found of avoiding any additional call on the Treasury this side of the election.

It was clearly understood that these were the two key levers over spending over which the Post Office had control, and were what was being referred to when Sarah Munby said that “we needed to know that in the run up to the election there was no appetite to “ rip off the band aid “, “ that now was not the time for dealing with long term issues “ and that “we” needed a plan to “ hobble “ up to the election.

While it is true that the sums allocated by the Treasury for payment of compensation to postmasters are ringfenced for that purpose alone, the money remains with the Treasury until required to fund specific payouts, and the fact remains that insofar as they are unspent, the money would still be available to the Treasury for other purposes, and would reduce the overall deficit which the Treasury needed to fund.

It should be noted that according to the Post Office accounts for 2022/23 the amount provisioned for postmaster compensation was reduced to £244m from £487m the previous year. This was a not insignificant benefit to the Treasury. As the accounts point out on page 78, the Shareholders Letter of Support does not constitute a financial guarantee, however, and includes certain caveats, making it clear than any funding is subject to His Majesty’s Treasury’s consent. It also makes clear on page 79, that the funding is not yet contractually committed by the Shareholder and required covenant waivers beyond July 2024 are not guaranteed. As the accounts point out this is a material uncertainty.

Accordingly, the safest route for guaranteed compensation is to have the money transferred to the Post Office, which the Government has so far refused to do.

Mr Staunton cannot himself explain why Ms Munby appears now to have a different recollection of the context of the conversation. However, we would point out that the note of the conversation that is appended to her letter to the Secretary of State was written over a year after the conversation it relates to took place and cannot be considered a contemporaneous note.

Following that conversation, and having shared his account of the meeting with Nick Read, the CEO, Mr Staunton, made it clear that he did not believe that the Post Office should do anything to delay either the payment of compensation to postmasters or the implementation of the Horizon replacement. He told Mr Read that he should press on with both and that he, Mr Staunton, would bear any consequences.

One further point which should not be forgotten, is that the real tragedy is the plight of the wrongfully convicted postmasters and their families and that this is what we should be focusing on rather than the unseemly political spat which Mr Staunton was not seeking but which this seems to have degenerated into.

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periodictabledancer
1 hour ago, Footballfirst said:

Staunton has now issued a rebuttal of Munby's rebuttal.

 

Statement regarding the Sarah Munby Memo

Mr Staunton’s recollection of the conversation was very clear. It was precisely because he felt what he was being told about the government’s view of the issues was so surprising, that he needed to take a note of the conversation immediately afterwards and share it with his chief executive.

The clear message he took away from that conversation was that rather than tackling head on the two key issues which the Post Office faced, namely the cost of replacement of the Horizon IT system and the cost of meeting the compensation for the wrongly convicted postmasters, which would have been his preferred course of action, and would have allowed the Post Office to draw a line under the issues and move on, some way needed to be found of avoiding any additional call on the Treasury this side of the election.

It was clearly understood that these were the two key levers over spending over which the Post Office had control, and were what was being referred to when Sarah Munby said that “we needed to know that in the run up to the election there was no appetite to “ rip off the band aid “, “ that now was not the time for dealing with long term issues “ and that “we” needed a plan to “ hobble “ up to the election.

While it is true that the sums allocated by the Treasury for payment of compensation to postmasters are ringfenced for that purpose alone, the money remains with the Treasury until required to fund specific payouts, and the fact remains that insofar as they are unspent, the money would still be available to the Treasury for other purposes, and would reduce the overall deficit which the Treasury needed to fund.

It should be noted that according to the Post Office accounts for 2022/23 the amount provisioned for postmaster compensation was reduced to £244m from £487m the previous year. This was a not insignificant benefit to the Treasury. As the accounts point out on page 78, the Shareholders Letter of Support does not constitute a financial guarantee, however, and includes certain caveats, making it clear than any funding is subject to His Majesty’s Treasury’s consent. It also makes clear on page 79, that the funding is not yet contractually committed by the Shareholder and required covenant waivers beyond July 2024 are not guaranteed. As the accounts point out this is a material uncertainty.

Accordingly, the safest route for guaranteed compensation is to have the money transferred to the Post Office, which the Government has so far refused to do.

Mr Staunton cannot himself explain why Ms Munby appears now to have a different recollection of the context of the conversation. However, we would point out that the note of the conversation that is appended to her letter to the Secretary of State was written over a year after the conversation it relates to took place and cannot be considered a contemporaneous note.

Following that conversation, and having shared his account of the meeting with Nick Read, the CEO, Mr Staunton, made it clear that he did not believe that the Post Office should do anything to delay either the payment of compensation to postmasters or the implementation of the Horizon replacement. He told Mr Read that he should press on with both and that he, Mr Staunton, would bear any consequences.

One further point which should not be forgotten, is that the real tragedy is the plight of the wrongfully convicted postmasters and their families and that this is what we should be focusing on rather than the unseemly political spat which Mr Staunton was not seeking but which this seems to have degenerated into.

Why was Munby writing up her notes a year after the event. This stinks. 

 

And it's clear why Hollinrake (?) Asked if ALL  the money is with PO now : it clearly isn't  and never was.

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