Ex-Post Office boss admits removing reference to Horizon system from Royal Mail legal document

Business

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has admitted to amending the legal document Royal Mail issued to would-be investors before it became publicly owned to remove mention of the flawed Horizon IT system.

Data from the accounting software created by Fujitsu was used to prosecute more than 700 sub-postmasters for theft and false accounting.

Many more victims lost their homes, livelihoods and good reputation to repay non-existent shortfalls.

‘Last minute changes’ to Royal Mail prospectus removing Horizon reference

Now the inquiry set up to establish a clear account of the introduction and failure of Horizon has heard during Ms Vennells’s third and final day of questioning that she removed “at the very last minute” reference to Horizon from the prospectus Royal Mail issued before it was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

A prospectus is a legal and financial document detailing key information for potential company investors.

It was the first time the issue was raised with Ms Vennells.

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Paula Vennells breaks down in tears again

She said: “It was flagged to me that in the IT section of the Royal Mail prospectus, there was reference to – I can’t remember the words now – but risks related to the Horizon IT system… the line that was put in said that no systemic issues had been found with the Horizon system.”

Ms Vennells wanted the reference removed as, “the Horizon system was no longer anything to do with the Royal Mail group” she said, and contacted the company secretary to have the reference removed.

‘Earned my keep’ in the Post Office split and Royal Mail listing

Based on this action Ms Vennells wrote to a colleague “I have earned my keep on this”.

Had Horizon bugs been known at the time Ms Vennells agreed that Royal Mail could not have been made private.

“Wrongful Royal Mail prosecutions would have stopped it floating [on the London Stock Exchange] I’m sure that would have been the case”, she said.

Post Office and Royal Mail had been one organisation before they were separated in 2012, so some Horizon prosecutions were undertaken by Royal Mail.

Earning her CBE?

Legal counsel questioning her suggested it was her good work with the separation of Royal Mail and the return of Post Office profit ability that earned her an CBE (commander of the British empire).

Ms Vennells returned her OBE before it was eventually removed.


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She was at the top of Post Office for 12 years and served as its chief executive for seven of those, from 2012 to 2019.

In at times emotional testimony, Ms Vennells said she “loved the Post Office” and worked “as hard as I possibly could to deliver the best Post Office for the UK”.

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