Post Office ditched plan to replace Fujitsu with IBM in 2015 due to cost and project concerns | Computer Weekly

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As a project to replace the Post Office’s controversial core laptop system by 2025 strikes ahead, an official public inquiry has heard a few botched try to replace the software program 10 years in the past.

A plan to replace Horizon’s retail and accounting system on the heart of a nationwide scandal with software program from IBM has been scrapped amid concerns about cost and how lengthy it could take to implement.

Final 12 months, the Post Office introduced it was now engaged on a project to replace Fujitsu’s Horizon retail and accounting system with “easier, sooner and extra intuitive” software program.

It isn’t the primary time the Post Office has tried to replace Horizon, which the Excessive Courtroom discovered to be error-prone.

Talking in Parliament in June 2015, MP Andrew Breeden mentioned the Post Office was trying to replace the Horizon retail and accounting system, used in 1000’s of publish workplaces throughout the nation, with expertise from IBM.

Horizon was launched in 1999 to replace largely guide accounting. Initially from ICL, which was acquired by Fujitsu in 2002, it has been deployed in the Post Office department community since 1999. However its introduction led to a sudden enhance in the variety of sub-postmasters reporting unexplained deficiencies in their accounts, for which they had been accused. On the publish workplace, every of them was informed that nobody else was experiencing issues, and the pc errors had been coated up.

This led to what is named the Post Office Horizon scandal, which cost many lives and was one of many largest miscarriages of justice in UK historical past (see a timeline of Computer Weekly articles on the scandal since 2009).

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Bryggen was one among a small group of MPs who stood up for the victims sub-postmastersa few of whom had been prosecuted for fraud and theft and despatched to jail.
Particulars of the plan to replace Horizon had been tight on the time, because the Post Office denied there have been any issues with the system. Talking through the Home of Commons adjournment in 2015, Bridgen mentioned: “Regardless of the Post Office claiming that the Horizon system is 100% dependable, I’ve an e mail which proves that the Post Office is now urgently in search of a substitute software program system. from IBM. I believe it is actually an occasion for the Horizon system.”
On the time, the Post Office mentioned it was nothing new as numerous contracts had been expiring.
However this week, eight years later, a proper public inquiry into the Horizon scandal revealed that work with IBM had really begun.
Gary Blackburn, former NBSC Post Office group chief, labored on the project with IBM.
Requested by lawyer Flora Web page why the Post Office plans to replace Horizon, he mentioned: “I believe so [Horizon was] it is simply outdated expertise, and it is time to transfer on to one thing that is sooner to develop, simpler to develop, in order that new merchandise could be created extra simply.”

I do not learn about different suppliers

Blackburn informed the general public inquiry he was not conscious of some other suppliers being thought of. “I’ve not been concerned in any such contractual discussions,” he mentioned. “I do not recall anybody speaking to me in regards to the choices and whether or not there have been different options that we had been taking a look at.”
He mentioned the project was canceled due to cost and project execution points. “I’ve heard hypothesis that there are concerns about cost and whether or not it is going to be obtainable in the time-frame we’d like,” Blackburn mentioned.
“I believe it wasn’t a easy change like Horizon On-line the place we launched new software program; it was additionally the {hardware}, the information heart and the entrance workplace, so it was a giant problem.”
In April 2021, the Post Office introduced that it was lastly getting ready to full its Horizon deal with Fujitsu by 2025, when it added an additional 12 months to help the transition to the brand new system.
Mail was not obtainable for replace when contacted.

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