Don’t wait for a crisis to expose the weaknesses in your program governance

The recent revelations surrounding the Post Office’s Horizon System Program Governance should send shockwaves through boardrooms everywhere. It is a stark wake-up call, highlighting the perilous dangers of weak program governance.

The Horizon system, once deemed secure, has exposed vulnerabilities that allowed abuse, manipulation, and the propagation of alternative facts.

The question echoing through the corridors of power is this: Could a similar threat be lurking under your watch at this very moment?

A few weeks ago, it became clear there was widespread collusion between executives at The Post Office and Fujitsu regarding the integrity of the Horizon system.

Without doubt, high-ranking executives in both companies were acutely aware of bugs in the Horizon accounting software – but were evidently instructed to take a vow of silence.

All these executives are complicit in this egregious fraud.

Thanks to ITV’s compelling exposé and the ongoing public inquiry, Paul Patterson, Fujitsu’s European chief executive, has now confirmed that staff in Fujitsu and the Post Office were aware of issues as early as November 1999 when Horizon was introduced.

In cases where the Post Office prosecuted sub-postmasters based on flawed data from Horizon, witness statements from Fujitsu staff provided to the Post Office had been altered in a “shameful” and “appalling” manner by the Post Office’s lawyers.

In December, the public inquiry revealed that the Post Office’s legal team had reworked Fujitsu witness statements, removing references to details of bugs, errors, and other defects.

Mr. Patterson acknowledged that all bugs and errors had been known, at various levels, for many years. From the system’s initial deployment, there were well-known bugs, errors, and defects recognised by all parties involved.

Patterson admitted that the company failed to disclose “known error logs” in prosecutions, opting instead to provide audit trail data. He stated that Fujitsu had the ability to edit these datasets and make “any adjustments” agreed upon with the Post Office.

He emphasised that all evidence relied upon by the Post Office for prosecution should have been presented to the sub-postmasters.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office was responsible for 700 convictions. Most of the remaining cases are being brought by Scottish prosecutors.

It is clear senior executives from Fujitsu, and the Post Office have serious questions to answer regarding their conduct.

Ignorance is no shield. Be proactive, be vigilant, and safeguard your organisation from the unseen risks that may be operating right under your nose.

Don’t wait for a crisis to expose the weaknesses in your program governance. Fortify your systems, shore up accountability, and ensure the integrity of your operations. The Horizon case is a cautionary tale – let it be the catalyst for strengthening your defences against potential threats.

Your program governance is the backbone of your success. Strengthen it before the cracks widen. The time to act is now.

If you are open to an unbiased evaluation of your program governance’s fitness for purpose, feel free to email me at or reach out via LinkedIn for a conversation.

About the author

David Hilliard is Founder of Mentor Europe, execution specialists in strategic program execution.