Fujitsu wins £430m government contracts despite rising cost from Post Office Horizon scandal
The government is facing more criticism from MPs and peers after awarding Fujitsu new contracts worth more than £400million, but so far it has failed to do so. appeal to the IT vendor to help pay the huge financial costs of the post office scandal in which its error-prone software played a part. central part.
Taxpayers must foot the bill to compensate the Deputy Postmasters who have had their lives ruined by the faulty Horizon computer system and the mismanagement by the Post and the government of the problems faced by the Deputy Postmasters as a result.
In January Computer Weekly revealed that the Post had received more than £1 billion in taxpayer grants for its Horizon scandal compensation scheme.
But Fujitsu hasn’t been asked for a penny, despite its retail and accounting software being at the center of the scandal. In fact, last week the Japanese IT provider was awarded huge IT services contracts by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). He will be paid £250million by HMRC to replace an in-house service, while the FCDO has contracted Fujitsu to provide networking and communications services under a deal worth £184million.
For two decades, thousands of sub-postmasters were wrongly blamed and punished for accounting shortcomings in their branches, later found to have been caused by errors in Fujitsu software. Postmasters lost their businesses and homes, many were prosecuted and sent to prison, and suicides were linked to the scandal. In 2009, Computer Weekly told the stories of seven sub-postmasters affected by the issues (see Computer Weekly’s article timeline below).
His Conservative counterpart James Arbuthnot, who has campaigned for deputy postmasters for more than a decade, said: “It is high time the government took Fujitsu’s contribution to the Horizon scandal seriously. It is believed to be the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.
“The government wants to act as if it were ‘business as usual’ with Fujitsu. What prompts Fujitsu to contribute to the huge compensation cost about to fall on the taxpayer? And for HMRC, of all organisations, which are part of the Treasury, to take such a cavalier attitude towards taxpayers’ money is an odd example.
Karl Turner, Labor MP for Kingston upon Hull East, said the government should not contract Fujitsu until the supplier has committed to fund compensation.
“The government should not get contracts from this company until we have an unshakable guarantee that every bean required to pay compensation is received from Fujitsu,” he said. “Anything else would be totally despicable of Fujitsu and would also show that the government has contempt for the victims.”
Alan Bates, founder and chairman of campaign group Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, said it was “astonishing that the government is still handing out these huge contracts to a company that has made such a mess of the post office contract”.
Bates said he expects the government to eventually demand that Fujitsu pay the costs of the scandal.
Fujitsu declined to comment when contacted by Computer Weekly.
The latest contract awards bring government spending with Fujitsu to more than £3.5bn since 2013.
According to figures from Tussell, compiled for Computer Weekly in May, Fujitsu won £3.1 billion in UK public sector contracts between 2013 and 2021. Over the past five years, not counting the last two contracts, Fujitsu has signed deals worth £673 million with HMRC, £456 million with the Home Office and £572 million with the Ministry of Defence.
Separately, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has written to approximately 170 former postmasters and postal employees convicted of fraud, theft or false accounting to offer assistance to those wishing to challenge their convictions.
These people did not respond to the post office after it contacted them, and CPAB obtained the list of names from the post office last month under its Section 17 powers.
A total of 73 former deputy postmasters and employees of postal branches have had their criminal convictions quashed and 53 of them have been referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC, which is currently considering 31 new claims.
The letter to the former postal workers then goes on to give details on how to apply to the CCRC to have their conviction reviewed.
Helen Pitcher, Chair of CCRC, said: “Recent testimony at the independent public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon system has shown the devastating impact these convictions have had on people’s lives.
“It is completely understandable that many former postmasters therefore no longer want anything to do with Swiss Post. They may find challenging their conviction difficult, time-consuming, expensive, or they no longer trust the “system”.
“CPAB is here to help rectify the situation. We make it clear that we are independent, that contacting us is free, and that individuals do not need a lawyer to do so. There is also no time limit for applying with us. CPAB plans to contact another 100 former postal workers soon.
A total of 736 former postmasters were convicted based on evidence from the Horizon accounting system used at the branches, which was later found to be error-prone.