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TUC accuses Tories of ignoring warnings for years over Post Office Horizon scandal

THE TUC has accused the Tories of ignoring warnings going back years over the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

The union body said ministers refused to put safeguards in place to prevent future scandals involving publicly awarded contracts when it blocked measures in the Procurement Act last year.

These included making private firms delivering public contracts subject to freedom of information (FOI) requests, the creation of a statutory oversight body and the introduction of a “public interest” test when outsourcing contracts.

The TUC said these would have helped uncover the scale of the problem with the Horizon software that saw hundreds of subpostmasters wrongfully convicted far earlier. And NHS campaigners added yesterday that they could have helped prevent Tory Party cronies profiteering during the Covid pandemic.

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.”

The union body added that the Communication Workers Union was blocked from effectively organising at the Post Office, claiming the National Federation of SubPostmasters was being funded by bosses. And it warned huge sums of public money are still being awarded to private companies without proper scrutiny.

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan said the failure to expand FOI legislation’s relevance to NHS and public health “became stark during the height of the pandemic.”

“Routinely, FOI requests to scrutinise failing NHS contracts with private companies are rejected on grounds of commercial confidentiality,” he told the Star. 

“This is not so much government failure as government policy and it must end when this government ends.”

Campaign for Freedom of Information director Maurice Frankel called it “essential” that private companies providing public services under contract should be subject to FOI so the public does not lose its right to know due to contracting out.

“This loophole which protects contractors from scrutiny must be closed,” he added.

James Hartley, the lawyer for campaigning ex-subpostmaster Alan Bates and others, has described the actions of the Post Office as malevolent.

A Post Office legal representative said he understands the “profound mistrust in many quarters” following a litany of disclosure failings throughout the Horizon IT inquiry.

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