PO agrees to software probe

The Post Office has finally agreed to investigate an internal accounting system, amid claims that it has led to scores of sub-postmasters being wrongly accused of false accounting, with some even being jailed as a result.
Despite a rash of complaints, the Post Office has consistently stated that there is no fault with the Fujitsu-developed system, Horizon. But sub-postmasters claim problems with the technology could be generating unexplained losses. Thousands of Post Offices use the Horizon IT system for their accounts.
Dozens of postmasters have been charged and even jailed for accounting shortfalls. Others have had to make up cash discrepancies following prosecutions. Some Post Offices have been forced to close.
In October 2011, 85 sub-postmasters sought legal support in claims against the Post Office computer system. But according to campaigners, the latest development has seen the Post Office admit that it is prepared to look closely to see if there is a problem, and is calling for anybody with information to come forward.
Alan Bates, chairman of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA), said pressure from groups including the MPs representing sub-postmasters accused of false accounting has forced the Post Office to look again.
“All the parties involved with this are now trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
“After years of struggling to have our concerns heard, all that has happened is our numbers have kept growing. Eventually after discussions in the last year, and with the support of our MPs, there certainly seems to have been recognition at the highest levels of the Post Office that the issues we have been raising deserve proper investigation.
“One way or another they do seem to want to get to the bottom of all this, regardless of what is found. I have been very encouraged with the new Post Office attitude and this has been reflected in the agreement we all signed off on, as it not only covers sub-postmasters but also Post Office staff who deal with processing the data and contractors and agency staff working on Horizon elsewhere. This is just the start of the inquiry and early days yet and we’ll have to see where the next few months lead.”
The JFSA has appointed its own forensic experts to oversee the work done by Second Sight, which was appointed by the Post Office to take a close look at Horizon. “We would also like some of the developers that worked on the system in the early days to come forward,” said Bates.

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