Advertisement

Fujitsu ‘helped Post Office with prosecutions’ and staff knew of Horizon problems, MPs told

The boss of scandal-stricken Fujitsu has said staff at the company pre-2010 knew there were issues with its Horizon technology.
The boss of scandal-stricken Fujitsu has said staff at the company pre-2010 knew there were issues with its Horizon technology.

The boss of scandal-stricken Fujitsu has said staff at the company pre-2010 knew there were issues with its Horizon technology that has led to the unjust prosecutions of hundreds of sub-postmasters.

Paul Patterson, chief executive of the European arm of Fujitsu since 2019, has said the Japanese tech giant was “involved from the very start” in the Post Office scandal that has escalated in Britain in recent weeks.

“We did have bugs and errors in the system and we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of the postmasters. For that we are truly sorry,” Patterson told MPs in a Department of Business and Trade (DBT) committee hearing on Tuesday.

Over 700 sub-postmasters have found themselves entangled in a web of legal troubles after glitchy Fujitsu accounting software falsely showed financial discrepancies in their branch transactions.

Patterson added that he believes there is a “moral obligation” for Fujitsu to contribute to the compensation of wronged postmasters, but he refused to provide a specific figure.

Fujitsu’s most recent accounts do not include any provision for compensation.

Patterson, who has worked for Fujitsu since 2010, also admitted that staff working for the company before 2010 would have known there were problems with the technology – despite continuing to assist the Post Office with prosecutions.

But Patterson insisted Fujitsu is an “ethical” company.

“It is very clear from the evidence …that our standards were not at the level that we adhere to. I am personally appalled by the evidence that we have seen,” he explained.

The DBT committee also heard from Post Office chief executive, Nick Reed, along with former sub-postmasters Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton, who were both victims of the scandal.

It comes as the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry continues hearing testimony from Fujitsu workers.

One software developer described issues with Post Office technology as “endemic” in 2008, the inquiry heard today.

Responding to an error report, Gerald Barnes wrote in January that year that the fact that part of the system’s code was “not resilient to errors is endemic”.

He added: “There seems little point fixing it in this one particular case because there will be many others to catch you out.”

A former fraud and litigation team member admitted she now had concerns about a draft witness statement defending Horizon software as “obviously we had bugs in the system”.

Rajbinder Sangha saw the statement in July 2010 which claimed the “system was operating properly” and shortly after was copied into emails on issues with duplicate transactions.

She said she had no concerns at the time, as “I was not involved in producing a witness statement for going to court proceedings”, but accepted it caused her concern now.

Asked why, Sangha said: “Because obviously we had bugs in the system.”

Barnes also flagged concerns in November 2010 that problems with “duplicate transactions” risked affecting “a number of high-profile court cases in the pipeline”, the inquiry was told.

He said part of Horizon’s interface does not show “duplicate records/messages… this omission means that we are unaware of the presence of duplicate transactions”.

And Barnes warned if duplicates were “retrieved” without Fujitsu’s knowledge, “the integrity of the data provided comes into question”.

He added: “There are a number of high-profile court cases in the pipeline and it is imperative that we provide sound, accurate records.”

The inquiry will continue throughout this week.