UK government to investigate Post Office for incorrectly paid bonuses

The UK government has said it will investigate after the post office admitted it had improperly paid thousands of pounds in bonuses to senior executives simply for cooperating with an investigation into a long-running miscarriage of justice.

Post Office chief executive Nick Read agreed last week to return an undisclosed share of the £455,000 bonus reported by the state-owned company in its March annual report.

Kevin Hollinrake, minister for the Department of Business and Commerce, told parliament on Wednesday that he had commissioned a government inquiry into how the bonuses were awarded, as furious MPs said the Post Office had “added insult to injury” with the latest turn in law scandal.

“The situation is extremely concerning and deeply regrettable, and the Post Office is right to apologize,” Hollinrake said in response to an urgent question.

More than 700 post office operators across the country were indicted for theft and false accounting between 2000 and 2014 after the company’s faulty Horizon computer system falsely said it was shortfalling its profits. The scandal, which resulted in some operators being sent to jail, has been described as one of the biggest miscarriages of law in British history.

Last year the government said it would pay former postal operators up to £1bn in compensation, after the company said it could not pay the bill.

Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake told parliament the situation was “deeply regrettable”. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

However, the Post Office awarded Read and other top executives large bonuses for fiscal 2022, saying that part of those bonuses recognized that “all evidence and information required [was] supplied on time” to an inquiry led by retired High Court Judge Sir Wyn Williams.

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The annual report falsely stated that Williams had confirmed that the target had been met. The Post Office acknowledged in a statement on May 5 that it had not done so, and the chair of the remuneration committee, Lisa Harrington, who signed the bonds, apologized “unreservedly” for what the company described as a mistake.

Read received his £455,000 bonus on top of his £415,000 salary, while CFO Alisdair Cameron received £310,000 in bonus payments on top of a £316,000 salary.

Hollinrake told parliament that he was only made aware of the false claim on May 6, the day of King Charles’s coronation, and a month after officials who oversee the government Post Office stake first learned of it. time. He added that Read has apologized to the business department.

“In my opinion, we should have been informed of this situation immediately,” Hollinrake said. “The conditions under which this bond was authorized were questionable, to say the least.”

The government investigation will run parallel to an internal investigation of the Post Office by its new director, Amanda Burton, who will take over the company’s compensation committee. Hollinrake said she had asked Burton to provide her report within two weeks.

The post office has been contacted for comment.

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