Fujitsu set to be preferred bidder in UK digital ID scheme

Selection comes despite Japanese supplier's role in Post Office scandal

A UK government-endorsed ID card scheme is set to appoint Fujitsu as a business outsourcing supplier despite the Japanese company's earlier promise to refrain from participating in UK public procurement.

Fujitsu is understood to be the preferred bidder for the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) run by a non-profit company endorsed by the Home Office.

The government is set to extend the PASS scheme to phone-based digital ID cards. Although the physical cards, which employ holograms, can come from a number of companies, a single company is expected to build the software to verify users through a smartphone app or barcode scanner.

The contract, expected to be worth around £1 million, comes at a challenging time for the Japanese tech giant as it deals with the fallout from the Horizon Post Office scandal.

Some 736 Post Office branch managers were wrongfully convicted of fraud due to errors in the Horizon IT system. This destroyed the lives of the many involved, leaving some bankrupt and others feeling suicidal, with several tragically taking their own lives. Tens of individuals died before seeing any form of justice.

After a television drama on the subject aired, Paul Patterson, director of Fujitsu Services Ltd, admitted the company had a "moral obligation" to compensate those who were prosecuted.

In January, Fujitsu wrote to the UK government to confirm it would no longer tender for business in the public sector amid the ongoing inquiry into the Post Office scandal.

However, it appears that the PASS procurement was already in train by the time that decision was being made.

A Fujitsu spokesperson told The Register: "The tender process for this work started in May 2022 and Fujitsu submitted a bid in response to the tender in June 2022. Fujitsu were selected as preferred bidder in January 2023. The tender process and being selected as preferred bidder pre-dated the guidelines that Fujitsu has put in place regarding bidding for new work with customers in the Public Sector."

The Register has also offered PASS and the Home Office the opportunity to comment.

The PASS scheme aims to offer proof of age for young people attempting to buy alcohol in the UK, where the legal age is 18. More controversially, the ID scheme is also used in elections, becoming one of the forms of ID allowing citizens to vote. ®

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