Fujitsu’s Europe chief has expressed deep regret over the company’s failure to disclose 29 bugs in the system it built for the Post Office. The bugs were identified as early as 1999 and were not made known to the lawyers defending the Post Office operators prosecuted over missing funds. This shocking revelation came to light during a public inquiry into the scandal.
It was revealed that Fujitsu had a reluctance to inform the Post Office about a “known error log” that documented all the bugs and defects in the system. Even when the bugs were acknowledged, Fujitsu’s witness statements were edited by the Post Office in an attempt to maintain the illusion that the system was working perfectly.
Paul Patterson, who has worked at Fujitsu for 13 years, admitted that it was “shameful and appalling” that this crucial information was not included in the witness statements. He emphasized that all evidence should have been presented to the subpostmasters who were being prosecuted by the Post Office.
Between 1999 and 2015, approximately 900 Post Office operators were wrongly convicted based on false records generated by the Horizon IT system. The system was repeatedly defended by the organization, both inside and outside the court, as being flawless.
The public inquiry, led by retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams, revealed that the bugs and defects in the system were identified as early as November 1999 and led to the creation of false records.
Patterson also admitted that there was evidence of a “don’t share with the Post Office” approach among Fujitsu employees regarding the known error log. While the majority of bugs and errors were shared with the Post Office, Patterson acknowledged that the failure to inform the operators about known errors and provide the necessary data resulted in misleading witness statements.
In a startling admission, Patterson agreed that this was a serious problem. He expressed his apologies to the subpostmasters and their families, acknowledging Fujitsu’s part in this miscarriage of justice. He emphasized Fujitsu’s commitment to supporting the inquiry and getting to the truth, as well as engaging with the government to provide suitable contributions and redress to the affected parties.
This incident serves as a reminder of the importance of transparency and accountability in the development and implementation of critical systems that impact people’s lives. The public inquiry will continue to investigate the events surrounding this scandal and shed light on the actions of all parties involved.