Fujitsu wins flood contract extension despite starring in TV drama about its failures

Deal expanded from £4.5M to £19.5M over 7 years as critics point to shortcomings

The UK's Environment Agency has awarded Fujitsu – the tech biz embroiled in the high-profile Post Office scandal – a £2 million contract extension to run the flood warning system after apparent delays to finding a replacement supplier.

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The Defra department first awarded the Japanese tech maker the contract in 2016 in a deal worth an initial £4.6 million. The contract was centered on the provision of software and IT services.

In the wake of Storm Henk, the agency has this week issued nearly 300 flood warnings for England alone.

In a recent procurement notice, the Environment Agency (EA) said it had awarded three contracts under the initial framework agreement, with the remaining live contract set to expire in September 2025.

"Therefore, in the interests of transparency, the Environment Agency wishes to declare that the cumulative final value of the Future Flood Warnings System framework agreement is anticipated to be £19,500,000 with the contract expiring no later than 22nd December 2025," it said.

The government agency said it would shortly conclude a procurement for the successor arrangements for the Future Flood Warnings System framework agreement.

Search for that replacement – snappily called the Next Flood Warning System – began in April 2022, when the agency began an early engagement with suppliers. In December 2022, it published a contract notice with the contract valued at £31.6 million over six years. It said invitations to tender or participate would be sent to selected suppliers by February 27, 2023, and vendors would have to maintain their bids for six months.

The EA has already piloted the use of automated flood warnings, but critics complained that warnings are issued when there are no floods and that some notices come too late, after areas are already under water.

Fujitsu has come under fire for its role in the Post Office Horizon scandal, the inquiry for which is ongoing. It has become one of the UK's greatest miscarriages of justice after hundreds of subpostmasters were prosecuted for financial crimes early in the century. In 2019, the High Court case showed that Fujitsu's Horizon system contained errors that could have caused unexplained losses.

The scandal's profile is sufficient to merit its own TV drama, which began broadcasting this week.

The screening prompted broadcast journalist Michael Crick to tweet: "Given Fujitsu's role in creating the deeply flawed Horizon computer system at the heart [of] the postmasters' scandal, it would be interesting to know if the British government is still awarding them contracts. If so, why?"

A collective sigh from computer industry watchers up and down the UK was almost audible. ®

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