TUC accuses Government of failing to act on lessons from Post Office scandal

13/01/2024

TUC accuses Government of ‘failing to act on lessons’ from Post Office scandal

Union leaders have accused the Government of failing to act on the lessons from the Post Office scandal.

The TUC said ministers ignored warnings going back years and refused to put in place safeguards to prevent future scandals involving publicly awarded contracts.

The union body accused the Government of leaving “huge gaps” in the oversight of such contracts, saying that unions, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had all called for last year’s Procurement Act to ensure that private companies delivering a public contract were subject to Freedom of Information requests, but that this was not incorporated into the legislation.

Such a provision would have helped uncover the scale of the problem with the Horizon software far earlier, the TUC said. Its report stated that the widespread outsourcing of public contracts had led to a “race to the bottom” on quality as well as workforce pay and conditions.

Ministers were also accused of ignoring union calls for a “public interest” test to be applied when public services were outsourced.

The TUC said that the Communication Workers Union was blocked from effectively organising at the Post Office, claiming that the National Federation of SubPostmasters was given funds by the Post Office.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The Post Office/Horizon debacle must never be allowed to happen again, but the Government has failed to act on the lessons from this scandal despite repeated calls and warnings.

“Last October’s Procurement Act was a chance to improve the oversight and delivery of publicly awarded contracts.

“Yet instead of putting in place the necessary checks and balances, ministers blocked attempts to properly safeguard workers from mistreatment.

“Huge sums of taxpayers’ money are still being awarded to private companies without proper accountability and transparency.

“Ministers must call time on failed outsourcing. Public services should be run in the public interest, not for profit.”

A Government spokesperson said: “The Horizon scandal – which arose following the installation of the Horizon software in the late 1990s – was one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history, which is why we set up an independent inquiry to establish culpability.

“It is right that we do not pre-empt its conclusions, but once the full facts are established, we will consider all options to hold those responsible to account – both legally and financially.

“However, this report fails to acknowledge that the Procurement Act has strengthened accountability of suppliers and the Government’s power to challenge and exclude them, and is embedding transparency through the whole commercial process.

“This includes setting up a new, dedicated Procurement Review Unit, which will monitor contracting authorities’ compliance.

“The Government closely manages its relationships with strategic suppliers, on a cross-government basis, by constantly monitoring their performance – and we stand ready to use our new powers when appropriate.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub



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