Officials considered sacking Paula Vennells as Post Office boss in 2014

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UK authorities officials expressed superior doubts astir Paula Vennells’ suitability arsenic nan main executive of nan Post Office and considered sacking her successful 2014, 5 years earlier she resigned, nan inquiry into nan Horizon IT scandal has heard.

According to soul authorities documents shown astatine nan enquiry connected Thursday, officials and different Post Office committee members had concerns astir Vennells’ activity a decade ago.

“Advice from nan caller yearly reappraisal suggested that nan POL [Post Office Ltd] squad springiness observant information to nan continued suitability of Paula Vennells arsenic CEO,” publication 1 document, dated February 2014.

It appeared to beryllium from nan Post Office’s consequence and assurance committee, pinch nan Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, nan sole shareholder successful nan state-owned company, and nan Shareholder Executive, which managed nan government’s narration pinch nan Post Office and was made up of elder manufacture people, appearing astatine nan apical of nan page.

“There is simply a wide statement that Paula is nary longer nan correct personification to lead POL but justification is anecdotal.”

In a conception entitled “Why is Paula’s position nether review?”, 1 of nan reasons fixed was that “she has been incapable to activity pinch personalities that supply robust situation to her”.

The enquiry is examining really nan state-owned institution prosecuted hundreds of station agency operators, who were wrongly accused of stealing money from nan branches they ran owed to problems pinch nan Horizon machine strategy that led to what has been described arsenic Britain’s largest miscarriage of justice.

It took years for nan Post Office to admit that faults pinch Horizon, developed by Japan’s Fujitsu, were down galore of nan shortfalls.

Among nan options considered by authorities officials was “retain and review” – giving Vennells “time to present her plans, and authorities clip to hole for her replacement should she neglect to present connected nan plan”, nan archive said. This related to nan Post Office’s 2010 scheme which “failed to present nan expected gross growth”, according to nan 2014 document.

The archive besides said it would beryllium “more difficult” to region Vennells owed to nan impending wide election, which took spot successful 2015. “Ministers would beryllium conscious of nan governmental implications,” it said.

The insubstantial considered respective soul candidates and highlighted nan then-commercial chief, Martin George, and nan then-strategy director, Sue Barton, arsenic imaginable successors to Vennells.

The lead counsel for nan inquiry, Jason Beer KC, asked Alice Perkins, who chaired nan Post Office astatine nan time, if Vennells preferred having “yes-men and yes-women” astir her. Perkins denied this, but acknowledged that she began to person reservations astir Vennells’ activity successful 2014 that were shared by different committee members.

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Perkins said nan documents were “complete news” to her and she was not alert of nan discussions wrong authorities astatine nan time.

Vennells continued to tally nan Post Office until 2019, and was subsequently awarded a CBE “for services to nan Post Office and to charity”. She handed nan CBE backmost earlier this twelvemonth earlier being formally stripped of it.

Last month, Vennells told nan enquiry that she was “too trusting” of subordinates and was advised to contradict Fujitsu had distant entree to terminals. At 1 point, she collapsed down successful tears and said “I worked arsenic difficult arsenic I perchance could to present nan champion Post Office for nan UK.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Perkins was shown an email that Vennells sent her doubly successful 2014 successful which nan then-chief executive said she was “more saturated than outraged” astir an point connected nan BBC One Show programme connected nan Post Office scandal. Perkins said she could not callback her guidance astatine nan clip but added: “Looking astatine this now, evidently it looks perfectly dreadful.”

Upon repeated questioning, Perkins insisted: “The committee was not saturated of this rumor and I person said connected a number of occasions complete nan past 2 days that I deliberation location were instances wherever nan committee should person acted differently.”

Source theguardian