Post Office Chief Banked bonus on back of IT Scandal

The Post Office boss has been forced to apologise after it emerged he banked a huge bonus on the back of the Horizon computer scandal.

Errors made by Horizon software, which was made by tech firm Fujistu and used by the Post Office, led to the wrongful conviction of more than 700 people over false accounting and theft between 1999 and 2015.

Many innocent postmasters and mistresses also lost their livelihoods and life savings with some even committing suicide.

Nick Read, chief executive of the postage and banking group, told MPs at the Business and Trade Committee, he received the payments unbeknown to inquiry chairman, retired High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams.

Mr. Read, who had previously said he has handed back bonus payments linked to cooperating with the inquiry, made a fresh apology.

“Let me apologise for the error and the mistake that has been made in our incentive scheme,” he said.

“When the scheme was established, it was part of the transformation of the Post Office.

“Clearly the independent inquiry became a statutory inquiry halfway through the scheme term, and the mistake was that we didn’t go back and revisit that particular incentive.

“That was an error and I apologise unreservedly for that, and that’s certainly something that we should have identified.”

Mr. Read also believes the process of its historic shortfall scheme to repay victims has been fair despite fierce criticism from MPs at Tuesday’s committee.

It follows reports that previously convicted postmasters have seen compensation pay-outs heavily reduced.

One 80-year-old former postmaster saw his pay-out cut from around £330,000 to £8,000 due to tax and bankruptcy proceedings.

When questioned whether pay-outs were fair, Mr. Read said:

“Our objective is to make sure this is fair. I understand the principles and the approach to fairness that is being applied.

“I believe that is the case and I believe it is happening that way.”

The hearing comes a day after the Government confirmed that postmasters in the compensation scheme will receive top-up payments to ensure the amount they receive is not “unduly reduced by tax”.

Postal affairs minister Kevin Hollinrake said he expected a further £26m to be handed to claiming through these tax-exempt top-ups.

Mr. Read said that progress is being made with the shortfall scheme.

“The historic shortfall scheme will come to its conclusion very soon – we have 15 outstanding,” he added.

“The late applicants to the historic shortfall scheme total some 226 of which we have settled 79 already.

“Regarding the overturned historic convictions, we want to have more people come forward. We have to get more people and I’m deeply troubled that people aren’t coming forward.”

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