Key lessons all organisations can learn from the UK Post Office scandal

Key lessons all organisations can learn from the UK Post Office scandal

While the UK Post Office scandal involves many factors in addition to the role that Horizon accounting software played, there are lessons all organisations can and must learn.

That’s the view of internationally renowned forensic investigations expert Rob Kinrade, Chief Executive of Isle of Man-based business, Expol. Rob, whose wealth of experience includes being a former UK Home Office trained Senior Investigating Officer, says: “The Post Office scandal is, sadly, an example of how too much trust can be placed in data and allowed to override common sense. The data gathered from new software suggested that hundreds of trusted and diligent sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses had, for no apparent reason, all suddenly started committing acts of fraud. Of course, there are many other factors at play in this complex case, but there are some lessons that can be learned by all organisations. This scandal – and the human tragedy caused by the miscarriages of justice that followed – could have been nipped in the bud by diligent investigations that were then backed-up by thorough inquiries, and of course by managers then making the right decisions based on those findings.”

Rob speaks with authority on the subject of risk mitigation and forensic investigations because he leads an Expol team who for nearly two decades have provided these services for clients ranging from private individuals to global corporations. In addition, Expol also provide training in everything from advanced internet search techniques to advanced anti-money laundering and cyber security courses. The risk mitigation and forensic investigation sector is a very specialist industry – but the demand for this type of expertise is growing fast. Factors driving this growth include the exponential explosion of digital data, and AI technology which makes it ever more difficult for even the most tech-savvy employers to tell fact from fiction. The Post Office, and other scandals in the headlines which may have been avoided with more due diligence, are also making more organisations understand the value of investing in this specialist expertise as a preventative measure.

“Basing any decision on information that hasn’t been properly checked or challenged is always a risk,” says Rob. “Whether it’s a HR manager making a decision to employ an executive who has given false information about their experience or qualifications, or verifying financial matters relating to a proposed merger or takeover, it’s all mission-critical.”

The news headlines regularly feature shocking stories about what can happen when organisations fail to follow best practice on due diligence. For example, last year a woman who had worked as an NHS psychiatrist for over 20 years was jailed after a police investigation revealed she had faked a medical degree certificate. Add to this research published by Cifra in 2023 which showed that almost 10% of UK job applicants may have included false information on their CVs, and you can see the scale of the risk to employers.

“Our services are of increasing interest to clients who want to protect themselves or their organisations from these risks – or to mitigate the impacts when things have gone wrong,” adds Rob. “Whether it’s involving matters of fraud, asset tracing, litigation, criminal defence, commercial disputes, planning or crisis management, we are often the first call for corporate and private clients.”

He leads a strong team with backgrounds in law enforcement, IT and employment vetting. Collectively they have a knowledge base that spans UK, Isle of Man and international law, plus comprehensive technical know-how which includes staying ahead of the curve regarding the revolution in AI technology. Interestingly, while Expol’s work will continue to be transformed by technology, Rob says that forensic investigators will always need soft, human skills too. “Going back to the Post Office case, it is an excellent example which shows the importance of the human element. Based on what has been made public so far, the human response – or rather the failure of managers to respond appropriately and effectively – appears likely to emerge as the most crucial factor in the Post Office scandal, not the IT/software failures alone. Of course, every case has its unique set of circumstances – but there are very important lessons that can be learned by all organisations.”