What is Fujitsu and how is it involved in the Post Office scandal?

Credit: PA

By Hannah Ward-Glenton, ITV News Multimedia Producer

Fujitsu has apologised for its role in the Post Office scandal, in which hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongfully convicted for stealing funds.

The company's boss has said Fujitsu has a "moral obligation" to contribute to the workers' compensation, and that he had a "gut feel" that staff in the company knew there were errors

But what is Fujitsu, how was it involved, and how will it be impacted by ongoing inquiries into the Horizon scandal?

What is Fujitsu?

Fujitsu is one of the world's oldest technology equipment companies, after being founded in Japan in 1935 under the name Fuji Telecommunications Equipment Manufacturing.

Fast-forward almost 90 years and it is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and employs more than 120,000 people.

Fujitsu has grown in prominence over the years and acquired a number of companies, including the UK software business ICL in the 1980s.

How is Fujitsu involved in the Post Office scandal?

Fujitsu designed the IT software Horizon, which is at the heart of the Post Office scandal.

Horizon was installed across the Post Office in 1999, with thousands of sites across the country adopting the software.

But the software was riddled with bugs and glitches, which caused for accounting errors to appear and make it look as though sub-postmasters had fiddled accounts for their own benefit.

Former sub-postmaster Jo Hamilton criticised the government for not providing financial redress in a ‘timely manner’ Credit: James Manning/PA

Hundreds of sub-postmasters were then prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 as a result of the figures shown on the accounting software as they were blamed for the numbers not adding up.

In 2009 a group led by former sub-postmaster Alan Bates came together to protest their convictions as the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance. The convictions were then ruled as miscarriage of justice in a judicial case in November 2019.

What did Fujitsu know?

The European boss of Fujitsu has told MPs that his "gut feel" is staff in the company knew of errors in the Horizon system during an inquiry hearing on Tuesday.

Paul Patterson, the Europe director, said Fujitsu was "involved from the very start".

Paul Patterson, director of Fujitsu Services Ltd, gave evidence on Tuesday. Credit: AP

"We did have bugs and errors in the system. And we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of sub-postmasters. For that we are truly sorry," he added.

But Mr Patterson said he was unable to be specific about a month or year as to when management first knew about the issues with Horizon that would then go on to impact the Post Office and its workers.

Does Fujitsu still have ties to the UK government?

Fujitsu has won almost 200 government contracts since the Post Office stopped prosecuting its staff over financial discrepancies caused by the accounting software.

The Japanese tech giant is still one of the government's 'Strategic Suppliers', which means that it receives more than £100 million in contracts each year, according to procurement analysts Tussell.

The combined value of the contracts awarded to Fujitsu since 2012 comes to £6.8 billion, Tussell said.

Around 43 of those contracts are still in operation, and have a combined value of £3.6 billion, including the contract for the Post Office Horizon system, which is due to run until 2025.

Fujitsu supplies IT services to a number of government departments including, 11 contracts with HMRC worth more than £1 billion, 12 contracts with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) worth £581 million, and 12 with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) worth £557 million.

The services include providing the Police National Computer, which stores individuals’ criminal records, the government’s flood warning system, and the national emergency alerts system launched in March 2023.

What happens to Fujitsu now?

On Tuesday, Fujitsu said for the first time that it would help to fund the compensation of wrongfully convicted sub-postmasters.

Paul Patterson said Fujitsu has a "moral obligation" to contribute to the workers' compensation during the inquiry interviews on Tuesday, but neither the Japanese company or the government have given figures as to how much money would be involved.

And the inquiry into the scandal, and who was responsible, is very much still ongoing.

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On Tuesday, a Fujitsu employee, Rajbinder Sangha, gave evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry and said data from the Horizon system is still used in court proceedings.

The company has said it will engage further with the inquiry led by the retired judge Sir Wyn Williams.

Fujitsu has also come under criticism from some MPs who want the UK government to drop contracts with the Japanese firm due to the scandal, but it would be challenging for the government to end its involvement with Fujitsu anytime soon.

There is legal risk involved with terminating contracts with major suppliers, which could then prompt further lawsuits, arbitration and big financial losses.

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