Online tech learner logo
Online Tech Learner
  • Please enable News ticker from the theme option Panel to display Post

Post Office rapped for late evidence disclosure to inquiry • The Register

Post Office rapped for late evidence disclosure to inquiry • The Register


Updated The Post Office Horizon inquiry may be forced to recall witnesses after the company delayed disclosing evidence – some relating to communications to and from former chief executive Paula Vennells.

Jason Beer KC, counsel to the inquiry, said the Post Office had disclosed thousands of documents just weeks before the inquiry reopened this week. Some were relevant to witnesses set to be called this week, some to individual and third-party communications requested in July last year, while some appeared as recently as last Friday (April 5).

Beer said the late disclosure represented an issue “which the inquiry has become extremely and unfortunately familiar with over the past three years.”

He said the response to the Section 21 notice was particularly concerning. From July last year, the inquiry requested files from Ernst and Young (EY), Deloitte, KPMG, and Linklaters, which had carried out reviews of the controversial Horizon computer system.

The notice also requested correspondence with key individuals via their PAs, including Vennells, who has given up her CBE honor since the scandal reached wider public attention; Alice Perkins, former chairman of the Post Office; Alwen Lyons, Post Office company secretary; Angela Van Den Bogerd, former director; Mark Davis, former head of PR; Tim Parker, former chairman; and Susan Crichton, former general counsel.

“The issues that the Post Office’s disclosure to this inquiry have presented have been much more than minor ad hoc or additional disclosure,” Beer said. “In particular, the Post Office’s Assurance Review of personal assistant emails and other inboxes of potential relevance, in response to the inquiry’s section 21 notice of last year, is very concerning … it lists the number of senior key Post Office individuals; such individuals would undoubtedly communicate by their personal assistants.”

Since February 2, the Post Office has disclosed 73,720 documents to the inquiry, of which 67,210 documents might relate to hearings in Phases 5 and 6, which started today.

Despite such a volume of new documents so close to witness hearings, inquiry chairman Sir Wyn Williams said: “We’re going to carry on. That is perhaps a bold thing to do, because it does mean that there may be occasions in which witnesses are giving evidence where the documents haven’t caught up with the witnesses. That is a highly undesirable state of affairs. But that can be cured, albeit with some cost to the witness, by recalling them if necessary. The alternative is to have a substantial break and in my opinion … that is not desirable.”

The Post Office has been offered the opportunity to respond.

Horizon is an EPOS and backend finance system for thousands of Post Office branches around the UK, first implemented by ICL, a UK technology company later bought by Fujitsu. From 1999 until 2015, 736 local branch managers were wrongfully convicted of fraud when errors in the system were to blame.

The public inquiry into the scandal centers on the deployment of Fujitsu’s bug-ridden Horizon accounting system, which made mistakes in calculating the finances of local Post Office branches. This destroyed the lives of many involved, leaving some bankrupt and others feeling suicidal, with several succeeding in ending their lives. Sixty people died before just seeing any sort of justice served. ®

Updated to add

A Post Office spokesperson told The Register: “We are fully committed to supporting the inquiry to establish the truth and we have disclosed almost half a million documents to date, reflecting both the unprecedented scale of the issues in the scandal and our commitment to transparency. This follows searches of over 176 million documents, 230 physical locations and third-party sites, and across multiple systems. During the past six weeks, since the inquiry announced its current hearings timetable, we have disclosed the vast majority of documents required for those witnesses but regret a very small proportion of documents were not disclosed as early as all parties would have liked.

“The inquiry is examining issues that spanned more than two decades, including a lengthy period when Post Office was part of Royal Mail Group. Disclosure is therefore highly complex and we continue to do all we can to deliver continuous improvements and incorporate past learnings into the disclosure process to avoid the risk of delays to the inquiry’s timetable.”


Source link


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *