It has been revealed that Fujitsu, who developed the system that led to hundreds of subpostmasters being falsely accused of fraud, still makes billions of pounds worth of profit from government contracts. Now MP’s are fighting for change.
Government Contracts Under Scrutiny
Members of Parliament are pushing for the exclusion of Fujitsu from any future government contracts. The spotlight intensifies on the Japanese tech giant as its flawed IT system, the Horizon software, stands accused of orchestrating the notorious Post Office scandal.
Despite the collateral damage that ensued and saw innocent postmasters facing incarceration, Fujitsu inexplicably remains eligible for lucrative government projects.
Labour MP Kate Osborne, a fervent critic of the Post Office scandal, expressed her disbelief at the government’s continued patronage of Fujitsu.
Osborne stressed the fundamental injustice of rewarding a company whose Horizon software triggered a cascade of false accusations against postmasters. She commented, “It is clear that Fujitsu was at fault, and it is astounding that the Government is continuing to award them billions of pounds worth of contracts.”
Parliamentary Plea and Personal Tragedies
In October 2022, Osborne made a passionate plea in Parliament, urging the government to halt Fujitsu’s contracts. Her plea fell on deaf ears as ministers declined to take decisive action. Osborne stressed the human toll by citing the case of her constituent, Christopher Head, once Britain’s youngest postmaster.
Head faced financial ruin after being wrongly held responsible for a substantial £88,000 shortfall.
“Fujitsu’s role in the Post Office scandal is well known. The very least that they could do is not give them any new contracts. I think it’s a kick in the teeth for the former postmasters that they can see this company making millions of pounds,” Osbourne insisted. “For many of them, it destroyed their lives, it made them bankrupt, they lost their businesses and homes. And tragically some of them even took their own lives. It is a disgrace.”
Fujitsu’s Lucrative Contracts and Public Services
It was revealed that Fujitsu, since 2012, has secured an astonishing nearly 200 contracts from the public sector, amassing a staggering total of £6.8 billion.
These contracts extend across crucial government departments, including the Home Office, the Foreign Office, Defra, and the Ministry of Defence. F
ujitsu’s services encompass mission-critical systems such as the Police National Computer, the Government’s flood warning system, and the national emergency alerts system.
Government’s Stance and Ongoing Inquiry
As the government grapples with the fallout, there are contemplations of compelling Fujitsu to contribute to the compensation for Post Office victims. However, the government remains reluctant to bar the company from bidding on contracts until the conclusion of a public inquiry into the scandal.
This inquiry, led by retired High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams since September 2020, is a pivotal effort to unravel the intricacies surrounding the Post Office Horizon IT system.
The Commons Business Committee has summoned Fujitsu to appear at a parliamentary hearing. The hearing, set to feature Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake and Alan Bates, the former postmaster spearheading exposure efforts, aims to shed light on Fujitsu’s role in the scandal.
Simultaneously, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk engages in discussions with senior judges to explore the possibility of overturning all convictions related to Horizon, marking a potential legal intervention.
Fujitsu’s Apology and Paula Vennells’ Gesture
In response to the ongoing inquiry, Fujitsu issued a statement expressing its commitment to understanding and learning from the events surrounding the Horizon system. They acknowledged the devastating impact on postmasters’ lives and issued a formal apology.
“The current Post Office Horizon IT statutory inquiry is examining complex events stretching back over 20 years to understand who knew what, when, and what they did with that knowledge. The inquiry has reinforced the devastating impact on postmasters’ lives and that of their families, and Fujitsu has apologised for its role in their suffering.”
The statement went on to say, “Fujitsu is fully committed to supporting the inquiry in order to understand what happened and to learn from it. Out of respect for the inquiry process, it would be inappropriate for Fujitsu to comment further at this time.”
Meanwhile, former Post Office boss Paula Vennells, in the wake of public outrage and a petition signed by 1.2 million people, chose to return her CBE. Vennells conveyed sorrow for the sub-postmasters and their families affected by the wrongful accusations and prosecutions.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Alexander Tolstykh.