Late Post

Fujitsu baggage £3bn in public sector contracts whereas software program errors wreck the lives of subpostmasters

Fujitsu has been awarded £3.1bn value of contracts with the UK public sector since 2013, whereas subpostmasters suffered unimaginable hardship triggered by IT faults the provider hid from them.

The contracts embrace two with the Publish Workplace, value a complete of £440m.

Fujitsu has up to now alluded any opposed ramifications ensuing from its function within the Publish Workplace Horizon scandal, however a full statutory judge-led inquiry may change that.

The large quantity of taxpayers’ cash spent with Fujitsu provides weight to requires a such an inquiry into the Publish Workplace Horizon scandal, which noticed subpostmasters blamed and punished for unexplained losses attributable to errors within the provider’s Horizon retail and accounting system.

“This can be a public outrage and it wants a public reply,” mentioned Conservative peer James Arbuthnot, who has campaigned for subpostmasters for over a decade.

As a result of Fujitsu is a trusted provider of IT providers to main authorities departments, important to the livelihoods and security of the whole inhabitants, its enterprise and administration are the priority of the UK public.

In response to figures from Tussell, which analyses authorities spending information, previously 5 years, HM Income & Customs (HMRC) awarded contracts value £673m to Fujitsu, whereas the Residence Workplace and Ministry of Defence awarded contracts valued at £456m and £572m respectively.

Fujitsu saved quiet about Horizon flaws

Many subpostmaster victims of the scandal have been bankrupted by having to make use of their life financial savings and promote belongings to plug shortfalls of their accounts which solely existed on Horizon and have been attributable to software program errors.

A complete of 736 subpostmasters have been prosecuted for monetary crimes with some despatched to jail. Many suffered unwell well being attributable to stress and there may be a minimum of one suicide linked to the scandal. It’s described as the most important miscarriage of justice in UK historical past and 45 subpostmasters have already had prison convictions quashed with many time extra exoected to observe.

All alongside, the Publish Workplace denied that the Fujitsu Horizon system may trigger unexplained shortfalls, and Fujitsu, which knew this was not the case, remained silent

All alongside, the Publish Workplace denied that the Fujitsu Horizon system may trigger unexplained shortfalls, and Fujitsu, which knew this was not the case, remained silent.

Between 2000 and 2015, Fujitsu stood by whereas the Publish Workplace prosecuted subpostmasters based mostly on proof from the Horizon system, which Fujitsu employees knew was flawed.

Campaigners for justice demand a full statutory public inquiry into the Horizon scandal, with the ability to name witnesses, together with previous and current Fujitsu employees. The federal government’s present inquiry, led by former choose Wyn Williams, doesn’t have the ability to compel folks to offer proof below oath or demand the documentation it wants. Fujitsu is participating on this inquiry, however it’s being described as a “whitewash” by campaigners.

For 20 years, subpostmasters suspected that the unexplained losses have been attributable to the Horizon system. In 2009, Laptop Weekly advised the tales of seven subpostmasters affected by the losses (see timeline beneath for Laptop Weekly protection of the scandal).

The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) was shaped quickly after and started its marketing campaign for justice. This culminated in a Excessive Courtroom group litigation, which resulted in December 2019.

After years of Publish Workplace denials over errors within the Horizon system, supported by silence from Fujitsu, the choose within the Excessive Courtroom discovered the Horizon system was not remotely sturdy and contained many errors that would trigger unexplained shortfalls.

In the course of the group litigation, the place 555 subpostmasters have been suing the Publish Workplace, the choose, Peter Fraser, described the Publish Workplace’s denials of laptop errors because the “twenty first century equal of sustaining the earth is flat”.

Fujitsu’s reliability was additionally known as into query after the court docket case. It emerged that knowledgeable IT witnesses from Fujitsu, utilized by the Publish Workplace in court docket trials of subpostmasters charged with monetary crimes together with theft and false accounting, didn’t inform the entire reality.

The Metropolitan Police is presently investigating Fujitsu employees for probably committing perjury throughout court docket trials of subpostmasters.

One senior company lawyer, specialising in IT outsourcing, questioned why Fujitsu employees would possibly present deceptive proof, saying: “For a employees member at an IT provider to mislead a court docket might be that it was defending the shopper, however extra possible itself.”

Laptop Weekly has been demanding solutions from Fujitsu, however the firm has up to now did not reply.

Big private and monetary hurt

Arbuthnot mentioned it was not adequate for Fujitsu to plead secrecy when the Horizon system has had large penalties for the nation. “[Fujitsu] has performed a serious half in destroying the status of the Publish Workplace, which was as soon as a much-loved organisation, central to the village and city communities all through the land,” he mentioned.

“[Fujitsu] has performed a serious half in destroying the status of the Publish Workplace, which was as soon as a much-loved organisation, central to the village and city communities all through the land”
James Arbuthnot, Conservative peer

“However way more importantly, Horizon has additionally brought about 1000’s of revered folks to be humiliated inside these communities, many going bankrupt or dropping their life financial savings, some seeing their households destroyed, some going to jail and even some suicides.”

Not solely have the IT failures of the Horizon system brought about subpostmasters immeasurable hurt, however public funds have been, and proceed to be, thrown on the downside.

The taxpayer-funded Publish Workplace has already wasted an estimated £100m in authorized prices preventing subpostmasters in court docket and paid a £57.75m settlement with them after it admitted defeat, all however £11m of which went on subpostmaster authorized prices.

Following the court docket judgment, the Publish Workplace was compelled to arrange a compensation scheme, which 2,400 former subpostmasters have joined. Because of the large quantity of damages anticipated, the federal government has needed to conform to foot the invoice.

However the large prices and struggling may have been averted had Fujitsu been open in regards to the issues.

Software program testers recognized 1000’s of bugs

In 2015, Laptop Weekly reported an nameless supply who got here ahead after following protection of Horizon issues.

He mentioned when Horizon was being acquired within the late Nineteen Nineties, consultants recognized the “money writing program” as a potential trigger of great issues. He mentioned groups recognized a threat of knowledge corruption on the bespoke asynchronous communication system which despatched messages between branches and the central Horizon setup.

Talking to Laptop Weekly in 2015, the supply mentioned: “The asynchronous system doesn’t talk in actual time, however does so utilizing a collection of messages which can be saved, and forwarded when the community connection is out there. Which means messages to and from the centre could journey over one another. It’s completely potential that, if not handled correctly, messages from the centre could overwrite information held domestically.”

Earlier this 12 months, a former Fujitsu developer advised Laptop Weekly that he made his superiors at Fujitsu conscious of the extent of issues with Horizon, telling them explicitly that the money account wanted to be scrapped.

“Everyone within the constructing by the point I acquired there knew it was a bag of s**t”, he mentioned. “It had gone by means of the check labs God is aware of what number of occasions, and the testers have been elevating bugs by the thousand.”

Laptop Weekly requested Fujitsu why it didn’t inform the reality about errors within the system when subpostmasters have been being prosecuted, even being despatched to jail? Fujitsu was additionally requested if it accepts it was at fault permitting the Publish Workplace to say that Horizon errors couldn’t trigger unexplained losses when, in truth, each organisations knew this to be the case?

Fujitsu mentioned it might not reply these questions, however despatched an announcement: “As a long-term accomplice to UK private and non-private sector organisations, we’re devoted to supporting our clients, our staff and the folks they serve within the UK. We offered detailed responses to all questions raised by the Home of Commons Enterprise, Power and Industrial Technique (BEIS) Choose Committee, which might be learn right here, and are persevering with to cooperate with the continuing Publish Workplace Horizon IT Inquiry.” 

Passing the buck

BEIS choose committee chair Darren Jones MP mentioned solutions acquired from the Publish Workplace, Fujitsu and former Publish Workplace CEO Paula Vennells would possible be seen by many as makes an attempt to shift the blame.

In her solutions to the MP’s questions, Vennells blamed Fujitsu for not giving her and the Publish Workplace administration a real image of the issues with Horizon.

“The message that the board and I have been constantly given by Fujitsu, from the best ranges of the corporate, was that whereas, like all IT system, Horizon was not good and had a restricted lifespan, it was essentially sound,” she wrote.

“I believed that it was affordable for the board to depend on these assurances: Fujitsu was a revered world IT firm, it had many different governmental and high-profile clients, and from my expertise of working with Fujitsu, it gave the impression to be well-led {and professional}.”

Vennells mentioned the board requested Fujitsu questions to assist it perceive the problems with Horizon, however “it now seems that the solutions that got here again to those questions have been solely partially right”.

Rob Putland, senior vice-president at Fujitsu, was requested for a response to the choose’s view that the court docket case provided “a really one-sided image” of Horizon, which omitted any reference to paperwork that criticised or demonstrated deficiencies with the system. 

Putland blamed the Publish Workplace. “Fujitsu was not a celebration to the litigation. All selections regarding the prosecution of subpostmasters and the conduct of the [High Court group litigation] have been made by the Publish Workplace,” he mentioned.

“Whereas Fujitsu staff gave proof, it was the Publish Workplace which decided all elements of its case, together with the selection of witnesses, the character of their proof and the related paperwork.”

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