At the start of this year, bpostgroup voluntarily launched three compliance reviews, following the compliance review conducted in 2022 with regard to the concession for the delivery of newspapers and magazines in Belgium. These reviews concerned the processing of traffic fines, the management of 679 accounts (bank accounts for the government and more than 200 public agencies) and the delivery/cancellation of vehicle license plates.
A thorough factual and economic investigation was carried out, using external experts and forensic investigative methods. bpostgroup communicated the results of the compliance reviews to the external counsel of the relevant public services, in a “spirit of a close cooperation and resolution”.
The compliance reviews reveal malpractices whereby a small number of people inside and outside the company acted against the applicable laws and regulations, and without appropriate control.
Audrey Hanard, chairperson of the Board of Directors of bpostgroup, said, “We wanted to conduct these investigations in a proactive and thorough manner to enable bpostgroup to develop on stable foundations. Some findings are unacceptable. I greatly regret some of the practices we have uncovered, which must never happen again. It is especially painful that the confidence of our customers, our employees and our shareholders has been shaken by the conduct of a limited number of people.”
Traffic fines (Cross Border Fines – CBF)
bpost has been handling traffic fines on behalf of the Federal Public Service of Justice (FPS Justice) since 2006. The compensation received by bpost may in part constitute unlawful state aid. The services of the CBF were set out in a series of management contracts but their compensation was set in separate agreements and were not covered by state aid decisions declaring the compensation for the management contracts compatible. bpost also made a mistake when invoicing the rent for the office space for the back office services and did not communicate this mistake once it was discovered.
The compensation received by bpost for managing the bank accounts for the government and more than 200 public agencies (such as VAT payments) may be partly considered to be unlawful state aid. Some bpost employees drew up a presentation of costs that were incorrect and without involving the legal and financial departments of the company. The purpose of this cost presentation was to justify the level of compensation during the negotiations on the prolongation of this service with the FPS Finance.
License plates (European License Plates – ELP)
A bpost/speos consortium won a tender in 2010 and 2019 for ELP services, including the production and delivery of license plates and registration certificates for new and used cars in Belgium. The compliance review found bpost failed to comply with the service level agreements (SLAs) on a number of occasions and should therefore pay the contractually foreseen fines.
Besides the finalization of the internal compliance reviews, bpostgroup, supported by independent economists and legal experts, has concluded an in-depth legal and economic assessment regarding the remuneration paid by the Belgian state for the three services.
As part of its commitment to repay any overcompensation, bpostgroup is booking a provision of €75m (US$80m). Based on its in-depth legal and economic assessment, bpostgroup believes that this figure “constitutes the overcompensation to be repaid to the Belgian state over the past years for the three contracts”. The sum remains preliminary, as it does not yet reflect the views of the Belgian state.