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UK awards Fujitsu $60m contract amid calls to suspend it from government work

It may be in the dock over Horizon software scandal, but it's still on gravy train

UK government has awarded Fujitsu a £52 million (c $60 million) contract in the same week political leaders called for all local deals with the company to be stopped while it is in the dock over the Post Office Horizon scandal.

During the ongoing second phase of a public enquiry into the scandal, which saw 900 subpostmasters prosecuted for financial crimes such as theft and false accounting based on skewed data from the Fujitsu-supplied Horizon system, Labour MP Kate Osborne submitted an oral question in Parliament, asking the government to stop and review its contract with the Japanese supplier.

She said: "I thank the Minister for the constructive meeting that I and others had with him last week regarding the Post Office Horizon scandal, but he will know that no one from the Post Office, Fujitsu or the Government has yet to be held accountable. At that meeting, and last night in the other place, it was raised that despite this scandal, the Government are still awarding multimillion-pound contracts to Fujitsu. An apology from Fujitsu is not enough. Will the Secretary of State commit to pausing and reviewing all existing Government contracts with that appalling company?"

In response, Dean Russell, parliamentary under secretary of state to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, committed to discuss the matter further.

A sign of how deeply Fujitsu is entrenched with the UK government had arrived just a day earlier. A procurement contract notice showed the UK's tax collection agency awarded the supplier a £52 million ($60 million) deal, without competition, "to replace the Additional Services (the 'Fujitsu Services') and for associated IT project services (the 'Fujitsu Project Services') in circumstances where such services cannot be provided by another supplier."

Fujitsu has a long-standing relationship with His Majesty's Revenue & Customs. An arrangement named Aspire meant that, together with Capgemini, it made a combined profit of £1.2 billion (c $1.4 billion) between July 2004 and March 2014. Although that arrangement has officially come to an end, the suppliers have been awarded hundreds of million of pounds of work with HMRC, including a £250 million ($290 million) award in March.

Other recent wins include a £48 million ($56.6 million) contract with the Home Office for a police computer system.

The Post Office Horizon computer system dates to 1994 and cost £1 billion (c $1.2 billion). It was designed by ICL, which became part of Fujitsu Services.

The Post Office Horizon scandal saw workers blamed for accounting discrepancies shown later to be down to computer glitches. Around 900 subpostmasters were prosecuted for financial crimes based on data from the Fujitsu-supplied Horizon system between 2000 and 2015.

The supplier has not so far been penalized, although the government has set aside £1 billion to cover the costs of compensating victims of the scandal.

In April last year, 39 postal workers' convictions were overturned, with up to 400 more potentially being quashed after the Post Office wrote to them all. ®

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