Fujitsu rules itself out of UK public contract bids during Post Office inquiryon January 18, 2024 at 11:38 am

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The firm is part of an inquiry into how hundreds of Post Office managers were wrongly prosecuted.

Post Office signImage source, Getty Images

Fujitsu has told the government it will not bid for public contracts while the inquiry into the Post Office scandal continues.

Minister Alex Burghart said the technology firm had written to the Cabinet Office to inform it of the decision.

Fujitsu developed the Horizon software used by the Post Office which was later found to be faulty.

It is linked to one of the UK’s most widespread miscarriages of justice.

More than 900 sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted after faulty software incorrectly made it look like money was missing from their branches.

Mr Burghart told the House of Commons on Thursday: “This morning (the) Cabinet Office received a letter from Fujitsu voluntarily undertaking not to bid for government contracts whilst the inquiry is ongoing, unless of course the government ask them to.”

The government has continued to award billions of pounds worth of public contracts to Fujitsu even after it emerged that faults in its Horizon accountancy software made it look like there were shortfalls at Post Office branches.

It led to hundreds of branch managers being wrongly prosecuted for theft and false accounting.

Mr Burghart made the statement after Sir David Davis, the former cabinet minister, asked that companies such as Fujitsu be blocked from bidding for government contracts because of “terrible track records”.

The Financial Times had reported that the Cabinet Office had wanted to stop using Fujitsu for IT contracts on the basis of its past performance.

The newspaper said that government lawyers said it would not be possible legally to discriminate against firms based on their track record.

But Sir David told the House of Commons: “Government lawyers advised this could not be done. They’re wrong.”

He asked: “So will the government give further serious thought to blocking large companies like Fujitsu, with terrible track records from bidding for future contracts? And if absolutely necessary legislate accordingly?”

At that point, Mr Burghart announced that Fujitsu had voluntarily stepped back from bidding for future government contracts.

The Post Office – which is wholly-owned by the government – still uses Horizon and it paid Fujitsu £95m to extend the system for a further two years after plans to move to Amazon were abandoned.

On Tuesday, Paul Patterson, Fujitsu’s European boss, apologised for the firm’s role in the scandal.

He said that the Post Office knew about “bugs and errors” in the Horizon software early on. However, the Post Office carried on with the prosecutions.

At a hearing before MPs, Mr Patterson also said that Fujitsu had a “moral obligation” to contribute to compensation for sub-postmasters wrongly prosecuted as a result of its faulty software.

On Thursday, Fujitsu Group, which is based in Japan, said that it would “be working with the UK government on the appropriate actions, including contribution to compensation”.

It added: “The UK statutory public inquiry, to which our UK subsidiary is providing full co-operation, is examining complex events that have unfolded over many years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this co-operation.

“The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”

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