Fujitsu, the Japanese technology company that provided the flawed Horizon computer system at the center of the UK Post Office scandal, has admitted for the first time that it has a “moral obligation” to help compensate nearly 800 postal workers who were falsely accused of theft due to glitches in the system.
Fujitsu Apologizes and Accepts Responsibility
In a hearing with British parliamentary committees on Monday, Fujitsu executives apologized and said the company must accept responsibility and contribute financially towards providing redress to victims of the scandal.
“I am sincerely sorry that Fujitsu systems contributed to the circumstances that led to people being wrongly prosecuted,” Fujitsu Ltd. President and Representative Director Takahito Tokita told British lawmakers. “We accept Fujitsu must take responsibility for its role in this.” (Source)
This represents a major shift for Fujitsu, who up until now had denied any responsibility and refused calls to contribute compensation despite installing and maintaining the error-prone Horizon system in Post Office branches across the UK beginning in 1999. Over nearly 20 years, hundreds of postal workers were falsely accused of theft, fraud, or false accounting due to unexplained shortfalls that were actually caused by technical glitches. Many lost their jobs, homes, and life savings fighting the accusations.
Years of Denials and Government Contracts
Previously, Fujitsu had claimed that the Post Office was responsible for training and supporting postmasters and that the company was merely a secondary player.
Fujitsu has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in the scandal after it was revealed the company raked in £6.8 billion in UK government contracts since 2012. There were calls for the government to review and potentially end its relationship with Fujitsu unless it accepted responsibility. (Source)
However, in recent hearings Fujitsu admitted its involvement went much deeper.
“We were there from the very start,” Fujitsu’s UK and Ireland CEO Michael Keegan told lawmakers. “We put data into prosecution packs. We gave evidence in courts. We absolutely understand we were part of the prosecution process.” (Source)
Critics alleged Fujitsu was covering up flaws in Horizon to protect profits and government contracts.
Campaigners Welcome News but Demand Details
Campaigners seeking justice and compensation for victims broadly welcomed Fujitsu’s admission of responsibility. However, many demanded details on the company’s contribution and called for government contracts to be contingent on compensation.
“It is shameful that it has taken Fujitsu so long to accept any responsibility…while continuing to enjoy significant and lucrative contracts from the public purse,” former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells told Computer Weekly. (Source)
Calls grew for Fujitsu to commit to a specific compensation figure instead of vague platitudes.
“I don’t just want apology and admission of responsibility,” said Labour MP Kevan Jones. “I want to know how much Fujitsu are going to put into the compensation fund.” (Source)
What’s Next? More Hearings and battles over Compensation
Additional hearings are expected in the coming weeks as lawmakers continue investigating Fujitsu’s exact role. Campaigners will push for details on financial compensation and some suggested government technology contracts be linked directly to contribution payments.
It remains unclear how much Fujitsu will end up paying toward victim compensation funds. Some estimates put the total figure needed around £300-£400 million, which could mean a Fujitsu contribution exceeding £100 million based on its central role.
However, any final compensation number will likely result only after protracted negotiations and debate. In the meantime, dozens are still battling convictions through appeals courts while awaiting the outcome. For them, Fujitsu’s admission will be seen as long overdue validation after years of personal and financial devastation.
Timeline of Key Events in the Post Office Horizon Scandal
|Fujitsu installs Horizon IT system in Post Office branches
|Bug in Horizon later blamed for unexplained shortfalls
|Fujitsu begins raking in £6.8 billion in UK government contracts
|High Court finds Horizon had many errors causing unexplained losses
|Court of Appeals quashes 47 convictions citing Horizon flaws
|UK government announces £300-400 million compensation fund
|Fujitsu executives including CEO questioned by Parliament
|Jan 16, 2023
|Fujitsu publicly admits responsibility and moral duty to compensate victims
While Fujitsu’s admissions represent a major milestone after years of denials, the Post Office Horizon story is far from over. The compensation still needs to be sorted out and disbursed among hundreds of deserving people whose lives were unjustly ruined over a computer error. And questions will continue around Fujitsu’s role in obscuring those errors for financial gain. But after years of tireless campaigning for justice, this week marks an important step in the right direction.
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