Post Office suffers leadership crisis amid Horizon investigation (2024)

The Post Office has overhauled its management team as it grapples with a leadership crisis in the wake of bullying allegations against its chief executive.

The company has hired a chief operating officer and finance director on an interim basis to help stabilise the business as recently appointed chairman Nigel Railton carries out a strategic review.

Preetha McCann, who stepped down from Selfridges earlier this year after just four months, will take up the role of interim chief financial officer (CFO).

Neil Brocklehurt, who succeeded Mr Railton as co-chief of lottery operator Camelot, will join as interim chief operating officer.

It comes amid a series of departures and absences in the scandal-hit company’s senior ranks and as its chief executive Nick Read has been fighting bullying allegations.

An investigation by an independent barrister recently cleared Mr Read over a series of allegations made against him following a complaint from a member of staff.

The Telegraph revealed in March that Alisdair Cameron, the Post Office’s official CFO, has been on sick leave since last year amid a clash with Mr Read.

It is also understood that Kathryn Sherratt, its finance director who had been serving as its interim CFO in Mr Cameron’s absence, is not currently working. The reason for Ms Sherratt’s absence has not been disclosed and the Post Office said it did not comment on HR-related matters.

The appointment of Ms McCann and Mr Brocklehurst was announced to staff after The Telegraph contacted the Post Office for comment.

In a memo last week, chief executive Nick Read said: “The changes I have laid out in this communication are important and extensive, reflecting the significant journey of transition that the business is on.”

The Post Office has now been left with a number of temporary leaders. Mr Railton was appointed interim chairman last month after Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary, sacked his predecessor Henry Staunton.

Mr Staunton had been accused of making sexist and racial comments about a female job candidate. He has refuted the allegations and said he was the victim of a “smear campaign”.

The company is also operating with an interim general counsel. Sarah Gray is serving in the role as general counsel Ben Foat prepares to give evidence to the official inquiry into the Post Office Horizon IT scandal later this year.

Owen Woodley, the company’s deputy chief executive and chief operating officer who has been at the Post Office for eight years, is leaving the company this summer for personal reasons.

In the meantime he will lead the strategic review of the business, which is due to conclude in the autumn.

A Post Office spokesman said: “We are focused on changing our culture and rebuilding trust. Whilst this takes time, progress is being made. In addition to the recent appointment of Nigel Railton as interim chairman we have just announced a number of senior appointments as we seek to bring in new expertise.”

The management shake-up marks efforts by Mr Railton to shore up the Post Office as bosses face scrutiny over their behaviour following the wrongful conviction of scores of subpostmasters in the Horizon scandal.

Mr Staunton was sacked by Ms Badenoch in January after less than a year in the role and he has since made a string of claims against Mr Read, including overseeing a culture of misogyny.

The company’s former human resources director Jane Davies also claimed in April that Mr Read had started a “campaign to defame and ostracise” her after she was unable to secure a pay rise for him above 5pc.

The Post Office has said that Mr Staunton and Ms Davies’ claims have been “discredited” by the independent report by Marianne Tutin of Devereux Chambers.

Mr Railton was appointed as interim chairman last month and has committed to a 12-month term. He stepped down as Camelot chief last year and Mr Brocklehurst oversaw the process of handing over the National Lottery to Czech billionaire Karel Komárek earlier this year.

The Horizon scandal saw subpostmasters pursued for thousands of pounds due to faulty computer systems developed by the Japanese IT giant Fujitsu, in some cases resulting in suicide and prison sentences. The saga was reinvigorated by the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office earlier this year.

The company was also embroiled in a privacy row last week when it emerged that it had published names and home addresses of 555 subpostmasters who were victims of the scandal. The company said it had notified data protection authorities about the incident.

The Post Office inquiry is this week due to hear four days of evidence from Gareth Jenkins, a former chief IT architect at Fujitsu who helped build the Horizon system. Mr Jenkins provided evidence testifying to the reliability of the system in several prosecutions of subpostmasters.

Post Office suffers leadership crisis amid Horizon investigation (2024)
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