Fujitsu, the company behind the Horizon IT contract that caused a scandal for the UK Post Office, has apologised for its part in the fiasco and says it is planning to contribute to the compensation package for the wronged sub-postmasters.
The Europe boss of Japanese IT firm Fujitsu, the company responsible for the Horizon software rolled out by the UK Post Office which led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being accused of theft, has apologised for his company’s part in the scandal.
Fujitsu Europe Director Paul Patterson told a committee of MPs who are part of an inquiry looking into the scandal: “Fujitsu would like to apologise for our part in this appalling miscarriage of justice. We were involved from the very start.
“We did have bugs and errors in the system and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of the sub-postmasters and for that we are truly sorry,” he said.
The sub-postmasters faced erroneous accusations of theft, fraud and false accounting, with more than 700 of them convicted.
After a battle that lasted more than 20 years and ended in the UK’s highest court, it was proved that the real culprit was an IT glitch in the Horizon software.
Asked whether Fujitsu staff knew of bugs and glitches in the system before 2010, Patterson was initially unclear about his response but later said: “My gut feeling would be yes.”
Patterson told Britain’s politicians that the company had not yet made a provision for compensation but accepted a need to do so and would be in discussion with the UK government over how much it would be.
He said: “We have not made provision for that yet. I can’t put a number on that yet, but when we get to that position we will absolutely have to make a provision for it.”
The Fujitsu executive was asked about whether the company would continue to bid for government contracts and acknowledged his firm’s reputation had been damaged.
“It’s very clear that our brand and our value in the UK is under question, and we will look at all of those opportunities and decide yes or no,” he said.
Asked if Fujitsu was an ethical company he said: “I believe we are an ethical company. The company today is very different to the company in the early 2000s.”
The UK government plans to set aside one billion pounds (€1.16 billion) to compensate the wrongly convicted and others whose lives were destroyed by what Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described as “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history.”
Part of the public outrage against the Post Office was therevelation that the Post Office had its own law-enforcement procedures and was not subject to outside intervention.
When local Post Office managers – known as sub-postmasters – began finding unexplained losses in their accounting, they were told they would be responsible for covering them because there was nothing wrong with the Post Office system and the Horizon software it used. That was untrue.
Fujitsu faces more scrutiny this week as a number of workers appear before politicians trying to determine what the firm knew about the bugs, and whether their actions constitute perjury.