Controversial Fujitsu contract with Post Office extended again

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The Post Office has extended a controversial agreement with IT supplier Fujitsu that will see it support two datacentres to the end of March 2025, at a total additional cost of £36m.

Combined with an announcement earlier this year that a services contact with Fujitsu to support the Post Office’s branch accounting system, Horizon, was to be extended, the total extra cost to March 2025 is now £52m.

The Horizon software from Fujitsu is at the heart of the widest miscarriage of justice in UK history, yet the government keeps handing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the company.

The Fujitsu contract and the core Horizon software is central to hundreds of subpostmasters being prosecuted for financial crimes, such as theft and false accounting. A High Court case in 2019 proved the Horizon system contained errors that could have caused unexplained losses.

More than 900 subpostmasters were prosecuted for crimes including theft and false accounting, based on evidence from the flawed Horizon system.

So far, 96 former subpostmasters have had wrongful convictions overturned, with more expected. Many more subpostmasters had their lives ruined due to bankruptcy, and losing their business and property. The scandal is costing UK taxpayers well over £1bn to compensate subpostmasters and fund the ongoing statutory public inquiry into what happened.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We are continuing to invest in our existing technology whilst work continues on the development of a new system as part of transforming the business for the future, in collaboration with our subpostmasters.” The Post Office originally planned to move the two services to AWS by March 2023, when the original contract with Fujitsu was due to expire, but this was stopped in September 2022 because it was not technically viable.

Statement

The latest contract award stated: “As a result of this retention of datacentre capabilities, it is necessary to carry out datacentre fortification works to provide stability, avoid obsolescence and ensure business continuity. Accordingly, this modification includes capital expenditure for an appropriate refresh and improvement programme.”

Alan Bates, former subpostmaster and victim of the Horizon scandal, who led a group of subpostmastes in their fight for justice, was unsuprised by “yet another extension to Fujitsu’s contract”.

“It has been like squeezing blood out of a stone getting compensation for those that have suffered in the scandal, which was caused by the Post Office and Fujitsu, but the government seems happy to continue to throw money at Fujitsu.”

Despite its involvement in the scandal, the Japanese IT giant has continued to be awarded lucrative contracts by the UK government. Last year, it was awarded IT services contracts by the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). It will be paid £250m by HMRC to replace an in-house service, while the FCDO has contracted it to provide networking and communications services in a deal worth £184m, and the Home Office is paying Fujitsu £48m to support the technology underpinning the Police National Database.

In 2009, Computer Weekly told the stories of seven subpostmasters affected by the losses, which led to many more who had suffered losses coming forward (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below).

Sumber: www.computerweekly.com

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