Japan’s Fujitsu got billions from UK government despite Post Office scandal

Fujitsu Ltd. has held more than £3.4 billion (US$4.3 billion) of active contracts with parts of the British state including the Bank of England since 2019, despite its role in the UK’s Post Office scandal.

A parliamentary committee said £1.4 billion of those contracts were awarded after a 2019 court ruling that associated Fujitsu with the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of local branch managers for theft and fraud. The Japanese technology company supplied post offices with its Horizon software, which contained bugs.

The contracts included £2.8 billion of deals with HM Revenue & Customs, agreements worth £629.3 million with the Financial Conduct Authority and a £417,586 commitment with the Bank of England, according to data from the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee.

A customer exits a Post Office branch in England. Fujitsu supplied post offices with its Horizon software, which contained bugs. Photo: AFP

Members of Parliament on the committee sourced the figures from public bodies specifically affiliated with the Treasury, as part of a wider examination of the scandal.

Several of the contracts are still active, including £1.4 billion with HMRC and £9 million with the FCA. They were for services including resale of “threat and vulnerability management software” at the FCA and the BOE, and support for traders submitting customs declarations at HMRC.

The BOE said it no longer holds any active contracts with Fujitsu, while the FCA said it had considered ending a contract due to poor performance but in the end decided to carry on.

Calls grow for Japan’s Fujitsu to pay up in Britain’s Post Office scandal

“I hope this will aid transparency and scrutiny around the role of Fujitsu as a public sector supplier,” said chair of the Treasury Committee Harriett Baldwin.

The uncovering of the contracts comes after Baldwin, on behalf of the Treasury Committee, wrote letters to a swathe of Treasury-linked organisations asking them about their relationships with Fujitsu.

James Bowler, permanent secretary to the Treasury, confirmed in a letter to Baldwin that the department had not directly awarded any contracts to Fujitsu since 2019 – nor had the company submitted any bids for Treasury business.

Emily Shepperd, chief operating officer at the FCA, said the regulator’s main contract with Fujitsu expired in 2022. Fujitsu now provides some services as a third-party agent, she added, but interaction is limited.

Post offices were lifeline in pre-internet Hong Kong, and still have a role

The Post Office scandal has received heightened attention in recent weeks after the airing of a television drama which centred on victims of the debacle.

A public inquiry is ongoing to determine who is to blame for the convictions and false accusations that destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of sub-postmasters. Many who were not convicted were still forced to pay sums which they were wrongfully told they owed.

The inquiry heard last month that errors and defects in Horizon were known about by both Fujitsu and Post Office staff from the beginning of its deployment. Paul Patterson, a Fujitsu executive, has apologised for the company’s role in the scandal and said it should bear a moral responsibility to contribute to redress payments.

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