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Serious questions raised about Welsh Government links to Fujitsu following Post Office scandal

10 Jan 2024 6 minute read
Photo Tim Ireland PA Images

Emily Price

Serious questions have been raised about multi million pound contracts linking the Welsh Government with Fujitsu following the Post Office scandal.

Issues with the Horizon IT system made by Fujitsu led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit including theft, false accounting and fraud.

The Japanese company’s accounting software was eventually found to be faulty in a landmark 2019 court ruling.

A recent ITV drama, ‘Mr Bates Vs The Post Office’, told the story of the sub-postmasters and mistresses affected by the scandal and brought it to further attention.

The scandal – which took place between 1999 and 2015 – has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history. Some postmasters have died or taken their own lives while awaiting exoneration.

This week it was revealed that Fujitsu has won over 150 UK Government contracts since the Post Office stopped prosecuting its staff for financial discrepancies caused by Horizon.

Nation.Cymru understands that two multi-million-pound public procurement contracts linked to the Welsh Government have also been secured by Fujitsu – one of which is still ongoing.

Injustice

In 2011, Fujitsu was named a successful bidder in a project which received £24m in funding from the Welsh Government.

This was alongside £10m from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and £6m from collaborating institutions and private-sector and research income.

In 2019, Fujitsu landed a further £7m deal awarded by Welsh Government owned Transport for Wales for a five-year support and maintenance contract.

This was despite revelations about the injustice suffered by the sub-postmasters coming to light in the years before.

Plaid Cymru MS, Delyth Jewell has called for “comprehensive review” of corporation’s future public procurement contracts

Wrongful convictions

Ms Jewell said: “The Horizon Scandal has exposed serious issues with the business practices of the company behind the software which resulted in hundreds of innocent and hard-working sub-postmasters being prosecuted.

“The Fujitsu Corporation received millions of pounds in public money from Labour-run Transport for Wales as recently as 2019 – a whole decade after the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance Group was formed to fight against wrongful convictions.

“Serious questions must now be asked as to how a company whose mistakes have resulted in the prosecution and imprisonment of sub-postmasters could still be benefitting from Welsh Government procurement contracts, and indeed millions of pounds of public money.

“In the interest of transparency, Plaid Cymru is now seeking clarification about the full extent of the Labour Government’s current engagement with Fujitsu, and we are calling for a comprehensive review of the corporation’s eligibility for future public procurement contracts.”

Involvement

Today (January 10), Plaid Cymru leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth quizzed Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn on the Welsh Government’s current involvement with Fujitsu.

Speaking during plenary, he said: “Now, I’m aware that Welsh Government has had several dealings with the company over the years. Transport for Wales currently has a five-year support and maintenance contract with Fujitsu.

“I have no evidence to suggest that they have been responsible for similar failings at all in Wales. But, in the interest of transparency, could the Minister update the Senedd on the number of active contracts that the Government has with Fujitsu?

“Could the Minister also tell us how the concerns regarding their involvement in the Horizon scandal were taken into consideration before they were awarded Welsh Government contracts?

“And what additional due diligence will be applied to the Government’s relationship with Fujitsu, now and in the future, as a result of the new public understanding of the scale of the scandal that Fujistu was involved in? Are they fit to have contracts with Welsh Government?

“Is Welsh Government comfortable having contracts with the company at the heart of such a scandal? Finally, how has Welsh Government been feeding into the establishment of the UK public inquiry on this matter?

“Can the Minister share with us the assurances, that I hope Government has sought, that the scope of the inquiry will provide the answers and the closure that the long-suffering postal workers in Wales and their families deserve.”

“Scandalous”

Ms Blythyn replied: “If I touch on the point around Fujitsu first. It’s scandalous the role that they played and they need to be held to account as well. I should say I don’t have at my fingertips the number of active contracts with Welsh Government, but given this is a matter of such seriousness I wouldn’t attempt to take a guess at it.

“And if I can, my colleagues in Government perhaps can take that point away around the company and actually come back to this Senedd with an update on that matter at a future date.

“In terms of the inquiry, I know my colleague the Counsel General engaged with both the Lord Chancellor and the then Secretary of State for Justice with regards specifically about about the Post Office Horizon case, and also called for the remit of the terms of the reference of the inquiry to be widened to take into account some of the underlying justice system issues raised by these cases.

“And I’m sure he will continue to do so and follow that up at the meeting that he has upcoming as well.”

The Welsh Government did not wish to comment on the £7m contract awarded by Transport for Wales to Fujitsu. We were instead directed to the rail provider’s press office.

Tests

A spokesperson for Transport for Wales said: “The initial contract for ticket office and mobile ticket machines was awarded by Arriva as part of a group contract included Arriva Trains Wales and several other train companies in the Arriva Group in 2016.

“This contract was then managed by Keolis Amey, who extended the agreement as part of a refresh of ticket office and mobile machines. The contract was further extended to April 2026 by Transport for Wales, as this was deemed to be more cost effective than replacing the existing hardware.

“The Rail Delivery Group’s accreditation process provides stringent requirements for any supplier providing hardware or software for the purpose of ticket issuing and the new software is rigorously tested by the RDG who will not approve the software unless these stringent tests have been passed.”

 


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

Don’t rock the boat, it will be cherry blossom time soon in Tokyo and there must be a shed load of Japanese hospitality at stake here…

Due diligence-you had better believe it…

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago

Anyone with this firm in their infrastructure will have to examine what and when and where. Just look at the UK governments contract web site, they get a lot of work. Many millions of work in area’s where you would not want to see issues from software.

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