Negligence of Former Post Office Executive Extended Horizon Reliability Myth

Former Post Office executive David Smith has acknowledged his error in failing to provide clear instructions when commissioning a report on the Horizon computer system in 2010. The report focused solely on the positive aspects of the accounting system, despite concerns raised by subpostmasters and MPs about its reliability.

Subpostmasters were accused of accounting discrepancies, resulting in numerous prosecutions for theft and fraud. They claimed that the issues stemmed from errors in the Horizon system, a claim denied by the Post Office.

The report was initiated following inquiries by MPs and an investigation by Computer Weekly into problems faced by subpostmasters. Smith had commissioned the report to reassure MPs about the robustness of the Horizon system. However, the report, prepared by Rod Ismay, former Post Office head of product and branch accounting, failed to address the system’s weaknesses known within the Post Office at the time.

Smith testified during the ongoing public inquiry that he had tasked the investigators to compile a stress test report on the Horizon system, providing an overview of its reliability while considering potential questions from various stakeholders. He clarified that an honest and balanced assessment was expected from the report.

However, Ismay’s testimony revealed that he felt he was requested to present one-sided findings. Smith admitted his mistake of not providing written terms of reference for the report, acknowledging that it left room for interpretation. Ismay stated that he believed he was asked to solely provide reassurances on Horizon’s reliability based on existing Post Office conclusions.

During the inquiry, Flora Page, representing former subpostmasters, questioned whether the Ismay report was an attempt to cover up doubts about Horizon’s integrity. Smith vehemently denied this accusation.

Additionally, Smith apologized for sending a congratulatory email to his legal team after the conviction of subpostmaster Seema Misra in 2010. He expressed remorse for the poor judgment in celebrating Misra’s sentencing while she was pregnant. Misra’s wrongful conviction was later overturned in 2021.

Computer Weekly broke the Post Office scandal in 2009, shedding light on the challenges faced by subpostmasters due to the Horizon accounting software.

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