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Fujitsu to face grilling over Post Office scandal

Fujitsu company logo on headquarters building

Fujitsu, the key player in the Post Office scandal, faces crucial inquiries as its European head, Paul Patterson, appears before the Business and Trade select committee.

The scandal has been labeled the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history.

The committee wants answers on how faults in Fujitsu's Horizon computer accounting system led to the unjust prosecution of nearly a thousand Post Office branch managers for theft and false accounting. 

Acquiring the British company ICL in the 1990s positioned Fujitsu as a major player in government technology projects, a role it maintains.

Some of the questions including:

  • When did the company become aware of issues with the Horizon system, which was implemented in 1999 after winning the Post Office contract in 1996?

Reports of problems surfaced immediately, prompting the inquiry into whether the system was faulty or if widespread fraud occurred among sub-postmasters and mistresses. 

Critics argue Fujitsu and the Post Office were quicker to assume dishonesty among the postmaster than acknowledge faults in the system, even as evidence mounted against this perspective.

The committee will be scrutinising the veracity of statements by Fujitsu employees, particularly regarding the security of the Horizon system. 

Fujitsu said system was as secure as "Fort Knox"

Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells claimed reliance on Fujitsu assurances that the Horizon system was as secure as "Fort Knox." 

Fujitsu said only branch managers could access or alter Horizon records, blaming errors solely on sub-postmasters. 

This proved to be false, leading to perjury investigations against two Fujitsu witnesses.

Compensation issues also arise, with the Court of Appeal in 2019 finding defects in the Fujitsu system, resulting in compensation agreements for affected sub-postmasters. 

Despite the Post Office scandal, Fujitsu remains in contracts with the government, with the Horizon system contract extended until 2025, receiving over £95 million. 

The company continues to be entrusted with delivering critical services to various government departments, including HMRC, the Ministry of Defence, and the Home Office.

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