Government Grants Financial Aid to Post Office Due to Steep Rise in Horizon Replacement Expenses

Due to rising costs and an extended timeline, the government has allocated an additional £103m to the Post Office for its project to replace the contentious Horizon software used by subpostmasters. The Horizon system, developed by Fujitsu, was responsible for a widespread miscarriage of justice in the UK, falsely accusing subpostmasters of financial discrepancies. In an effort to replace the system by 2025, the Post Office has extended its IT services contract with Fujitsu and is currently working on the New Branch IT project. The Department of Business and Trade stated that while the Post Office is leading the program, the government is providing funding to ensure the development of a suitable replacement and the maintenance of the Horizon system in the meantime. The Post Office has been conducting live tests of basic mail transactions using the New Branch IT at two pilot branches this year, with plans to add further functionality in early 2024 and roll out the system to more branches later that year. However, some subpostmasters have raised concerns about the system and the lack of input they have in its development. They also questioned when a new subpostmaster contract will be introduced to prevent similar issues from arising, as the current contract holds subpostmasters responsible for any losses, even unexplained ones. The controversial Horizon contract with Fujitsu, which served as the retail and accounting system for the Post Office, led to over 900 subpostmasters being wrongly prosecuted for crimes such as theft and false accounting. The flawed Horizon system was found to contain errors that could have caused unexplained losses, leading to the overturning of convictions for nearly 100 former subpostmasters. The scandal is estimated to cost taxpayers over £1bn in compensation and government support for the Post Office. Despite this, no senior officials at the Post Office have been held accountable. There was a failed attempt to migrate from the Horizon system in 2015, when Fujitsu influenced Post Office management against a proposed contract with IBM to replace the software. This attempt at a multi-supplier contract would have seen IBM replacing the controversial Horizon system.

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