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Leaked comms reveal Fujitsu eyeing huge UK government bounty, despite Post Office scandal promise

While subpostmasters fight tooth and nail for justice and financial redress, Fujitsu continues to target millions of UK taxpayer pounds

Leaked internal communications have revealed Fujitsu is targeting about £1.3bn worth of UK government contracts over the next 12 months, despite its promise to stall bidding for new contracts amid the Post Office scandal fallout.

The IT giant is aiming for about £800m of public sector and about £500m of UK national security contracts in its business pipeline for its current financial year, to March 2025. The communications, seen by Computer Weekly, also reveal the company believes it can make bids alongside a partner supplier should they agree, without breaking its promise to the Cabinet Office.

According to a Fujitsu source, there are probably very few government departments where Fujitsu has never bid before, classed as new business. “Extensions to contracts, opportunities where Fujitsu is already bidding or where customers have invited it to bid are fair game,” said the source.

The supplier could also bid for contracts by partnering other IT firms if they “are comfortable with it”, according to communication from a UK executive.

Computer Weekly put the details of the internal communications to Fujitsu. “Fujitsu continues to work very closely with the Cabinet Office to ensure that the guidelines that we have voluntarily put in place are being followed appropriately,” it said.

The revelations call into question promises made by the supplier in January, following public outrage at the IT giant’s involvement in the Post Office Horizon scandal. This followed its very public shaming after the broadcast of ITV’s drama about the Post Office scandal in January, Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Fujitsu stood by and watched as the Post Office used unreliable data from Fujitsu’s Horizon system to persecute and prosecute subpostmasters for unexplained losses.

Through European head Paul Patterson, the company apologised for its part in the scandal, and in January it wrote to the Cabinet Office, stating it would not bid for new government contracts unless the government requested it to do so.

The multibillion-pound Japanese supplier has a huge existing customer base in UK government, much emanating from the legacy of British computer company ICL, which Fujitsu took over in the 1990s.

Many believe Fujitsu escaped a huge lawsuit because the Post Office behaved so badly in the Horizon scandal, and it’s only in recent months the company has faced public outrage. News of Fujitsu’s plans to profit from the public purse will not go down well with a public still waiting for it to commit to how much it will pay towards the huge costs of the scandal.

Kevan Jones MP, long-time campaigner for justice for subpostmasters that suffered as a result of Horizon errors, said: “This shows how hollow Fujitsu’s promise was. Until it agrees on how much it will pay towards the financial redress of victims of the scandal, the government should stop any further payments.”

Fujitsu is already set to lose its £2.4bn contract with the Post Office, described by one company insider as a cash cow for Fujitsu UK, as the government-owned organisation moves to an in-house system. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will now replace the Post Office as the supplier’s most important UK customer.

Fujitsu also works with the Home Office, Foreign Office and national security agencies, to name a few of its government customers.

According to figures from Tussell, Fujitsu has active contracts with the UK government and public sector worth over £4bn. The biggest of these is the supplier’s deal to supply and support the Post Office’s Horizon system.

Following the ITV drama about the scandal, Patterson apologised for the supplier’s role in the scandal and said the company would contribute to the huge costs associated with it, including financial redress for thousands of victims.

Patterson told MPs in a select committee hearing: “We were involved from the start; we did have bugs and errors in the system, and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of subpostmasters. For that, we are truly sorry.”

In the Post Office scandal public inquiry, Patterson admitted that the IT company missed opportunities to take action and prevent subpostmasters from being wrongly convicted for financial crimes.

One Fujitsu source said staff morale is low at the company in the UK. “People feel sickened by it, and so sorry for the subpostmasters and their families,” they said.

In a statement, Fujitsu Group said: “[Fujitsu regards] this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the subpostmasters and their families. The UK statutory public inquiry, to which our UK subsidiary is providing full cooperation, is examining complex events that have unfolded over many years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this cooperation. Based on the findings of the inquiry, we will also be working with the UK government on the appropriate actions, including contribution to compensation. The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters, including Bates, Hamilton and Thomas, and the problems they suffered as a result of the accounting software (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal below).

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story

Read all Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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