Shareholder Approval of the Post Office Transformation Incentive Scheme Inquiry Metric

Waiting for an internal review by Department for Business and Trade of their handling of this request.

Dear Department for Business and Trade,

On 26 July 2021 the Chair of Post Office’s Remuneration Committee, Ken McCall, wrote to BEIS Permanent Secretary and Principal Accounting Officer, Sarah Munby, seeking Shareholder approval for the inclusion of the Post Office CEO & CFO in the Transformation Incentive Scheme (TIS). The scheme included an Inquiry metric and targets:

https://corporate.postoffice.co.uk/media...

The Inquiry metric as set out in this letter included ‘a clear, measurable plan created to demonstrate action on improving the overall culture to be Postmaster centric and to ensure processes for Postmasters are addressed in line with recommendations from the Inquiry’. One target also referred to the planning of operational changes to be implemented in line with the Inquiry‘s recommendations.

Recommendations could only be made by the Inquiry, and therefore only implemented by the Post Office, once the Inquiry had concluded its work.

By the date of this letter, and certainly by the time Sarah Munby gave her approval to its contents in November 2021, it was known that the Inquiry had been elevated to a Statutory footing. As such, it was not anticipated to conclude its work until the autumn of 2022; that is, not until months after the end of the financial year for which the Inquiry-related bonus was to be awarded.

Please can you disclose the letter of 12 November in which Sarah Munby gave Shareholder approval to Ken McCall’s request.

Please can you also disclose:

i) all internal BEIS communications which relate to the TIS Inquiry metric/targets between July 2021 and August 2022;

ii) all communications between BEIS & the Post Office which relate to the TIS Inquiry metric/targets between July 2021 and August 2022;

iii) all communications between BEIS & UKGI which relate to the TIS Inquiry metric/targets between July 2021 and August 2022.

Yours sincerely,
Eleanor Shaikh

Information Rights Unit,

Our ref: FOI2023/04836

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

Thank you for your request for information which was received on 18th
August. Your request is being considered under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

The Act requires that a response must be given promptly, and in any event
within 20 working days. We will therefore reply at the latest by 18th
September.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Information rights unit

Information Rights Unit,

Case Reference: FOI2023/04836

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

We can confirm that the Department holds information falling within the
terms of your request. However, we need more time to consider your
request.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 ('the Act') obliges us to respond to
requests promptly and in any case not later than 20 working days after
receiving your request. However, when a 'qualified' exemption applies to
the information and an accompanying public interest test is engaged,
section 10(3) of the Act allows the time for response to be extended, in
which case a full response must be provided within such time as is
reasonable in all circumstances. In the case of this FOI request, we are
considering section 35 (formulation of government policy). However, this
is not yet finalised and will be sub ject to changes.

The Department has not yet reached a decision on the balance of the public
interest. Due to the need to consider, in all the circumstances of the
case, where the balance of the public interest lies in relation to the
information that you have requested, the Department will not be able to
respond to your request in full within 20 working days.

We hope to let you have a response by 16th October.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building| London SW1A
2DY
| E-mail: [email address]

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References

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Information Rights Unit,

Case Reference: FOI2023/04836

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

We can confirm that the Department holds information falling within the
terms of your request. However, we need more time to consider your
request.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 ('the Act') obliges us to respond to
requests promptly and in any case not later than 20 working days after
receiving your request. However, when a 'qualified' exemption applies to
the information and an accompanying public interest test is engaged,
section 10(3) of the Act allows the time for response to be extended, in
which case a full response must be provided within such time as is
reasonable in all circumstances. In the case of this FOI request, we are
considering section 35 formulation of government policy. However, this is
not yet finalised and will be subje ct to changes.

The Department has not yet reached a decision on the balance of the public
interest. Due to the need to consider, in all the circumstances of the
case, where the balance of the public interest lies in relation to the
information that you have requested, the Department will not be able to
respond to your request in full within 20 working days.

We hope to let you have a response by 13th November.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building| London SW1A
2DY
| E-mail: [email address]

[1]gov.uk/dit | [2]GREAT.gov.uk | [3]DIT Twitter | [4]DIT LinkedIn |
[5]Business is GREAT Facebook

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
2. http://www.great.gov.uk/?utm_source=staf...
3. https://twitter.com/tradegovuk
4. https://www.linkedin.com/company/departm...
5. http://on.fb.me/1atEmJr

Information Rights Unit,

2 Attachments

Dear Eleanor Shaikh ,

Please find attached a response from the Department for Business and Trade
to your freedom of information request FOI2023/04836.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building | London | SW1A
2DY | E-mail: [email address]

Dear Information Rights Unit,

Thank you for your response to FOI2023/04836 in which you disclosed the submission of 21 October 2021 regarding the Post Office TIS Inquiry metric/target.

I would like to request an internal review, however, into your decision to withhold further communications from between July 2021 and August 2022 (both internal and between the Department & UKGI) which refer to the TIS Inquiry metric/target.

You have cited the qualified exemption under Section 35 (1) (a) of the FOI Act (‘Formulation of Government Policy’) without due recognition of the public interest in disclosure which I maintain far outweighs this exemption.

This FOI request concerns decisions around the payment of an Inquiry-related bonus metric to senior executives at the Post Office which, thanks to mainstream media coverage, is now widely understood to have been both unjustified and grossly unethical given that the Inquiry is still in progress, that it is now statutory and that the overwhelming majority of Post Office victims are yet to receive full and fair compensation.

You may be aware that the payment of bonuses under the Inquiry metric has been referred to the Metropolitan Police for investigation into possible criminality, whilst the Postal Minister Kevin Hollinrake promised to ascertain whether or not a breach of the 2006 Companies Act has occurred (Westminster Hall debate, 13 July 2023).

As you will know, due to the severity of this incident, both the Post Office and your own Department commissioned reports into how such bonuses were sanctioned given the relevant metric had not, indeed could not, have been achieved within the time frame of the TIS bonus scheme.

Neither of these reports included within their remit the role of UKGI, Ministers, the BEIS Accounting Officer, the BEIS Policy Team or HM Treasury officials in approving the bonus proposal. This, despite a UKGI representative sitting on the Post Office Board & Remuneration Committee; Tom Cooper’s very function in this role was to assist the Shareholder in maintaining an appropriate degree of oversight.

Despite this lack of scrutiny, the episode gives rise to serious and unanswered questions concerning the quality of oversight of the Post Office both by UKGI in its stewardship role of Government assets and, separately, in the oversight exercised by Ministers & the Departmental Accounting Officer. These channels of oversight ought to have stopped the bonus Inquiry metric in its tracks but they did not. Information which I have reasonably requested may help to shed light on how this was allowed to happen, either through unintended negligence or because the incentives for cooperating with the now Statutory Inquiry were deemed acceptable.

Governance failings at the Post Office - up to and including the role of UKGI and its Shareholder - have already contributed to the greatest miscarriage in British legal history. If you are to hide behind a Section 35 exemption on this matter, what assurance can the public have that anything has changed? How are we to believe that Departmental oversight of PO governance has been strengthened in the light of the Horizon scandal, if such a failing over bonuses has been allowed to arise?

I would argue that, far from leading to ‘poorer decision making’, disclosure and transparency in this instance is the surest way to improve decision making and avoid such failure in future.

Yours sincerely,

Eleanor Shaikh

Information Rights Unit,

Our ref: IR2023/07579

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

Thank you for your internal review request which was received on 24th
November.

In accordance with the FOI code of practice we will provide you with a
response within 20 working days. We will therefore reply at the latest by
27th December.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights Unit

Information Rights Unit| Department for Business and Trade| Old Admiralty
Building, London, SW1A 2DY | www.gov.uk/dit | [email address]
|

Information Rights Unit,

Case Reference: IR2023/07579

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

Writing to update you regarding your Internal Review request IR2023/07579
dated 24th November regarding FOI request FOI2023/04836

Your request is underway and is being handled under the FOIA and the FOI
Code of Practice.

Paragraph 5.5 of the FOI Code of Practice allows public authorities to
extend the time recommended to conduct an Internal Review (20 working
days) by a further 20 working days if the review is complex, requires
consultation with third parties or the relevant information is of a high
volume.

I will be extending this internal review to 24 January 2024 to account for
the complexity of the case

We will be in touch with you as soon as we are able.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building| London SW1A
2DY
| E-mail: [email address]

Information Rights Unit,

Case Reference: IR2023/07579

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

I am writing to update you further to my email of 27 December 2023
regarding your Internal Review request IR2023/07579 dated 24th November
regarding FOI request FOI2023/04836

Your request is underway and is being actively considered under the FOIA
and the FOI Code of Practice.

We require further time to consider your request in full. Paragraph 5.5 of
the FOI Code of Practice allows public authorities to extend the time
recommended to conduct an Internal Review (20 working days) by further 20
working days if the review is complex, requires consultation with third
parties or the relevant information is of a high volume.

I will be extending this internal review to 21st February to account for
the complexity of the case.

We will be in touch with you as soon as we are able.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building| London SW1A
2DY
| E-mail: [email address]

Information Rights Unit,

Case Reference: IR2023/07579

Dear Eleanor Shaikh,

Writing to update you regarding your Internal Review request IR2023/07579
dated 24th November regarding FOI request FOI2023/04836

Your request is underway and is being handled under the FOIA and the FOI
Code of Practice.

Paragraph 5.5 of the FOI Code of Practice allows public authorities to
extend the time recommended to conduct an Internal Review (20 working
days) by a further 20 working days if the review is complex, requires
consultation with third parties or the relevant information is of a high
volume.

I will be extending this internal review to 21st March to account for the
complexity of the case.

We will be in touch with you as soon as we are able.

Kind regards,

Information Rights Unit

Department for Business and Trade | Old Admiralty Building| London SW1A
2DY
| E-mail: [email address]

Dear DBT Information Rights Unit,

This FOI request was submitted on 18 August 2023. Two extensions were needed by you before you decided to disclose just one relevant document and refused to disclose other information which you held within scope of this request.

You have now extended the period of Internal Review for the third time taking the review to a total of 80 working days and a response time which will total over 7 months.

Whilst I appreciate the FOIA Code of Practice allows for an extension of the 20 working day rule on Internal Review, paragraph 5.5 stipulates best practice requires that an extension should be no more than a further 20 days.

If you are not able to disclose the requested documentation by 21 March 2024 I shall be submitting a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner. I shall also forward our correspondence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry.

Yours sincerely

Eleanor Shaikh