Sad post saga shows Fujitsu shouldn’t get another penny of taxpayers’ money Business

This sentence is quite difficult to follow – perhaps deliberately. As far as I can tell, he seems to say the system was working even when it wasn’t.

A lawyer asked the Fujitsu employee if this was really his opinion or the company’s course of action. The employee said that was his own opinion. The lawyer then read the evidence that another Fujitsu employee had given during Seema Misra’s trial nine years earlier. It was identical to the word, including the misspelling of “affect”.

The scrambled prose therefore appears to have represented Fujitsu’s view that Horizon was working properly even when it was not working properly. Hopefully the independent public inquiry led by Sir Wyn Williams can shed some light on this particular paradox.

Fujitsu’s role in this scandal dates back to an IT system that was first set up as a private finance initiative between the Post, the benefits agency and a technology company called ICL in 1996. idea was to create a magnetic card system for over-the-counter benefit and pension payments to help reduce fraud.

ICL placed third out of three bidders based on technology, but was chosen because, like the Parakeet, it was cheap. And guess what? It was a total and utter disaster. The idea was scrapped in 1999 at a cost to the taxpayer of around £700 million. Around the same time, ICL was gobbled up by Fujitsu.

In an attempt to salvage something from the ruins of this simmering disaster, the Post used some of the technology to digitize its branch accounting system, which until then had been paper-based. It was a perfect example of the sunk cost fallacy – the tendency to follow through on a project that is doomed to fail because of the time, effort and money that has already been invested.

The result was Horizon, which then spread misinformation that led to the Post Office prosecuting 736 deputy postmasters between 2000 and 2014, at the rate of one a week on average. A total of 60 people were convicted and a third of them were imprisoned.

Fast forward to the end of 2019, and following the conclusion of several longstanding civil cases, the Post has agreed to settle with 555 plaintiffs. The convictions of 72 former postmasters were overturned.

There will undoubtedly be a series of lawsuits and civil actions in the future, especially against the post office for malicious prosecution. Nick Read, the current boss of the Post Office, has promised that the victims will receive compensation by the end of this year. The cost to the taxpayer will likely be astronomical.

But, while there has been some measure of justice, there has been very little accountability. So far, no one who has held senior positions at the Post or Fujitsu for the past 20 years has been held responsible for the scandal.

Almost unbelievably, the government is still working with the Japanese company, awarding Fujitsu public sector contracts worth £3bn since 2013, around half of that in the past five years, according to Computer Weekly. It manages the IT systems for the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs and the Ministry of Defense and has a contract to maintain Royal Navy warships.

Campaigners rightly questioned whether the government’s reliance on Fujitsu could be part of the reason the Post Office inquiry originally lacked the legal power to compel companies to hand over documents or witnesses to testify. .

During a recent debate in the House of Lords, government spokeswoman Baroness Bloomfield revealed that Fujitsu was no longer a preferred government supplier. However, she added: “Like any other business, it can bid for contracts.”

When pressed on the matter by other peers, Baroness Bloomfield said: ‘Obviously there will be repercussions for [Fujitsu], but I don’t want to prejudge the content of the survey. She added that while Fujitsu is free to bid on future government contracts, “I’m sure the story of this sad saga will be considered in this process.”

I would like to share the Baroness’ confidence. It’s all too plausible that Whitehall’s right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and can hand out contracts when it’s abundantly clear that the government shouldn’t hit Fujitsu with a 20ft barge pole.

The fact that a High Court judge referred the Japanese company to the Director of Public Prosecutions because of “serious concerns” about the evidence provided by its employees is sufficient justification for its reluctance.

For Fujitsu to receive a penny more of taxpayers’ money before all the facts come to light would be a further insult to the postmasters who have already suffered more than most of us can imagine.

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This notice was published: 2022-04-12 05:00:00

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