Government was looking to get rid of Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells

The government was considering getting rid of Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells, the inquiry into the Horizon scandal has heard.

Ms Vennells was at the top of the government-owned company for 12 years, and CEO for seven, while the faulty Horizon accounting software was in operation.

The Fujitsu-made IT programme incorrectly generated financial shortfalls and Horizon data was used to prosecute more than 700 sub-postmasters at Post Offices across the UK for theft and false accounting.

The miscarriage of justice has received fresh attention since the airing of ITV drama Mr Bates v the Post Office.

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The independent statutory inquiry into the scandal on Thursday heard a second day of evidence from former Post Office chair Alice Perkins.

Vennells disliked being challenged

Ms Perkins was presented with a government business department report from 2014 in which the shareholder executive committee questioned the "suitability" of Ms Vennells.

Her job was "under review", it said. "There's a general consensus that Paula is no longer the right person to lead the Post Office."

The concern centred around the Post Office's financial performance but also the feeling that Ms Vennells was "unable to work with personalities who provide a robust challenge to her" and did not show "an understanding of political considerations".

When she was at the inquiry last month Ms Vennells was presented with evidence she knew, or should have known, about the miscarriage of justice. But she said she was "too trusting" of those around her and did not make the kinds of inquiries that would have uncovered the scandal.

Ms Vennells gave three days of at times emotional and evasive evidence to the inquiry, which was met by sub-postmaster protest and scorn.

Prosecutions of sub-postmasters continued for another year after the 2014 government report was written and a further four years passed before the Post Office apologised for wrongdoing in 2019.

Growing doubts over leadership

Ms Perkins denied the suggestion made by the counsel for the inquiry that Ms Vennells wanted yes men and women around her.

She did, however, start in 2014 to have doubts about Ms Vennell's ability to lead the Post Office and of her grip on Horizon, Ms Perkins said.

During that year Ms Perkins said she set Ms Vennells a "specific personal objective" to give priority to horizon issues.