Post Office to be investigated over Horizon inquiry bonuses

Chief executive Nick Read revealed last week that he would return a portion of the £455,000 bonus he received

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The Post Office (PO) is to be investigated by the UK government after it wrongly paid thousands of pounds of bonuses to senior bosses for cooperating with the Horizon IT scandal’s inquiry.

Chief executive Nick Read revealed last week that he would return a portion of the £455,000 bonus he received, which was disclosed in the firm’s annual report for 2021-22.

Between 2000 and 2014, 736 subpostmasters were prosecuted by PO for theft, fraud, and false accounting due to numbers not adding up on their till system, Horizon. However, a number of convictions were quashed, after the shortfalls were linked to major IT glitches.

An inquiry was launched three years ago to explore the issues emerging from the court cases. Despite the government pledging to foot the £1bn compensation bill, and the PO publishing monthly updates on interim and final payments made to subpostmasters, payouts in full are still yet to be given to those affected.

However, as of 26 April 2023, the Historical Shortfalls Scheme settlement, that the PO is responsible for, has a total of 2,394 offers with a total of 1,940 payments made and compensation worth £63.3m paid. In addition to this date, a total of 84 convictions have been overturned with over £18.5m compensation provided to those with overturned convictions.

Interim payments of up to £163,000 have been made to 80 people and 55 people have agreed settlements totalling over £6.4m for personal damages.

In response to the bonuses, business minister Kevin Hollinrake demanded an “immediate explanation” from the PO, adding the news was “extremely concerning and deeply regrettable”.

PO’s current chair of the remuneration committee, Lisa Harrington outlined what she intended the proposed investigation would explore. “The scope of the investigation is to ensure that the remuneration committee’s policy for rewarding executives, and its implementation, is consistent with corporate governance best practice.

“The review will be led by Amanda Burton, who joined PO as a non-executive director on 27 April as part of a planned succession to chair the remuneration committee.

“The review will report at the earliest opportunity with its findings and recommendations to be shared with the secretary of state for trade and business.”

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