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‘Failings’ identified in Post Office cash shortfall investigations

THE POST OFFICE failed to adequately investigate the causes that led to cash shortfalls occurring at several sub-post offices before commencing civil and legal proceedings against more than 150 sub-postmasters, a report by forensic accountancy firm Second Sight has found.

Sub-postmasters blame problems with the Post Office’s Horizon accounting software that led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

There are around 11,500 sub-postmasters who run smaller post offices in the UK, none of whom are directly employed by the Post Office. But they must pay back any shortfalls, which for some has led to prison terms, while others have lost their homes or been bankrupted.

Second Sight found that in many cases the Post Office had failed to identify the root cause of the shortfalls before launching court proceedings against sub-postmasters.

The cash shortfalls could have been caused by criminals using malicious software, by IT systems or by human error, the report said.

The report also said that the Post Office had refused to hand over documents the accountants felt they needed to investigate properly.

The Post Office has consistently maintained the issues could not have been caused by its Horizon accounting software and today rejected Second Sight’s findings. The software was introduced by the organisation nationwide in 2000.

In 2013, an independent mediation scheme was set up to help settle disputes between sub-postmasters and the Post Office.

Alan Bates, chairman of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, has previously said problems with the computer system were reported since its introduction more than a decade ago.

A Post Office spokeswoman said: “Over the past three years there have been exhaustive investigations which have not found any evidence of systemic problems with the Horizon system.

“The mediation scheme was set up to address individual complaints and that is what we have gone to great lengths to do – a number are now resolved. The complaints are considered on their facts and substance.”

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