While Post Office Ltd was a subsidiary of Royal Mail and Royal Mail were owned by the Government there was an easy an understandable chain of command. The MD of POL reported to the MD of Royal Mail who in turn reported to the Government via the Stakeholder Executive. So the Government were one step removed from controlling what happened in the Post Office.
Now that is no longer the case. There is a board of Directors and a new Chairman who report to the Shareholder Executive of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.
But the problem is that the Shareholder Executive are Civil Servants and rely totally on what Paula Vennells and her cronies tell them to be true. So when Paula tells them all is well then all is well.
From a Ministerial point of view (Yes Minister!) the minister in charge relies totally on the BIS Civil Servants to provide him with briefings and answers to ministerial questions in line with government policy. The Minister cannot be seen to intervene even in the light of media revelations of questionable practices e.g. the Horizon scandal.
There is one governmental body though that can intervene and has in the past. The Commons Select Committee for BIS. This Committee can call it’s own inquiry into Post Office affairs and has done so in the past. Such an inquiry can lead to a report and recommendations but that is the limit of its powers.
So Post Office Ltd management can carry on with impunity no matter how wrong and misguided their actions may be.
What is the answer to this conundrum? I don’t know. Public scrutiny through the media helps to embarrass the Government but is rarely effective in promoting change. I’ll keep plugging on though trying to raise awareness of the approaching demise of a national institution through a mixture of mismanagement and ineptitude. I am so glad I got out of running a Post Office when I did and only a fool would now take one on.