Fujitsu public sector contracts dry up in Post Office scandal aftermath

Fujitsu has won just one UK public sector contract so far this year, compared with seven at this point last year, following the angry reaction to its role in the Post Office scandal.

While the IT services giant’s self-imposed government bidding pause has not quashed its appetite for public sector work, the fall in contracts could be a stark sign of challenges ahead.

At this time last year, the IT giant had won seven UK public sector contracts worth over £65m, but data from Tussell Group shows just one deal this year – a £155,000 software support contract with the National Nuclear Laboratory.

By April 2023, Fujitsu had signed a £25m deal with Bristol City Council, a £16m contract with the Post Office, a deal worth £13m with Northern Ireland Water, an £8m deal with the Ministry of Defence, two deals with the Department for Education totalling £3m, and a contract with Leeds City Council worth up to £100,000.

The drop in contracts follows the broadcast of an ITV drama about the Post Office scandal, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, at the beginning of the year.

After the drama aired, Fujitsu’s head of Europe, Paul Patterson, promised to pause bidding for government work until after the completion of the statutory public inquiry into the Post Office scandal.

Fujitsu’s Horizon software is at the centre of the Post Office scandal, which saw subpostmasters blamed and punished for accounting shortfalls that were caused by faults in the software.

During questioning by MPs at a business and trade select committee hearing in January, Patterson admitted to Fujitsu’s part in the scandal, telling MPs and victims: “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.”

But the bidding pause gesture, described as “hollow” by MP Kevan Jones, does not include deals with existing customers in the public sector, of which there are many.

In fact, last month, Computer Weekly revealed leaked internal communications that revealed Fujitsu is targeting about £1.3bn worth of UK government contracts over the next 12 months. Further leaked documents revealed that Fujitsu created a spreadsheet instructing staff how to get around its self-imposed ban.

Fujitsu also agreed to contribute to the cost of the Post Office scandal to UK taxpayers, estimated to be over £1bn, but is yet to confirm an amount. It also promised to meet the children of victims of the scandal to discuss redress, but is yet to agree a date. Liam Byrn MP, chair of the Business and Trade Select Committee, said Fujitsu should stop bidding for government contracts, agree an amount to pay now and meet the children of victims without delay.

He told Computer weekly last month: “[Fujitsu] should not be bidding for any government work until they have agreed how much they will pay towards financial redress,” he said. “Taxpayers would be absolutely horrified to learn that Fujitsu executives are trying to bend the rules around bidding.”

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to 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


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