The chief executive of the Post Office was forced to return part of his bonus after the group was accused of “cheating” an investigation into the deputy postmaster’s computer scandal.

Nick Read and other senior staff received part of their bonus for supporting an investigation led by Sir Wyn Williams into the Post Office’s faulty Horizon computer system, which resulted in the wrongful conviction of 700 postal workers for stealing money.

However, Williams said that he had not approved the payment of the bond, despite the fact that the Post Office he said he had received “confirmation” from him that the group “supported and allowed the investigation to finish according to expectations.” Williams said in a statement that this was “misleading and inaccurate.”

The Post Office said Read would return an unspecified part of the £455,000 he was awarded in bonuses in 2021-22. The board is still in discussions with other senior leadership recipients about their bonuses.

“We have apologized to Sir Wyn Williams for the implication in the Post Office annual report and accounts for 2021-22 that the pay sub-metric and its achievement were agreed with him and the investigation,” the Post Office said. .

The Department of Business and Commerce, which oversees the state Post Office, said: “The Post Office is right to apologize. The government is eager to hear what action the Post Office board plans to take in this regard.”

Hundreds of deputy postmasters were wrongfully prosecuted for theft between 2000 and 2013 as a result of Horizon computer system failures. In 2021, the Court of Appeals quashed the criminal convictions of 83 people, but the compensation granting process to those affected has been slow.

Lawmakers called the scandal one of the biggest miscarriages in recent legal history.

“I am troubled by the suggestion that bonus payments were awarded to senior executives based on inaccuracies,” said Darren Jones, chairman of the House of Commons business and trade committee. “This once again raises serious corporate governance issues at the Post Office, particularly for the remuneration committee.”

Lawyers for the investigation wrote to the Post Office in March concerned about the executives’ performance clause, which stipulated that part of their bonuses would be paid for providing all the “evidence and information” necessary to allow the Horizon IT investigation to proceed. “will end up online”. with expectations”.

The bonuses based on the clause were agreed in February 2022 and paid in March 2022, according to Correos’ annual report, although the investigation was only in its first phase of hearings.

Post Office attorneys responded to the investigative legal team in a letter in April stating that the sub-clause had been erroneously marked as “achieved”.

Dan Neidle, former head of tax at the Clifford Chance law firm and founder of think tank Tax Policy Associates, said he “couldn’t remember another case where a chief executive got a bonus for something that didn’t happen.”

The post office investigation is now in its third phase, which is to obtain evidence on the operation of the Horizon system. There are four phases remaining and the investigation is unlikely to conclude until 2024.

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