18 December 2019

When IT goes horribly wrong: The Post Office's Horizon system by ICL/Fujitsu Services

Fujitsu faces a potential criminal investigation after a High Court judge's savage criticism of the outsourcing company and one of its customers, the Post Office, at the end of a long-running trial over the state mail operator's core IT system.

In the so-called Horizon judgment handed down on Monday, Mr Justice Fraser went for the Post Office’s jugular, saying its attempt to defend its Horizon IT system "amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat."

Back in 1999 the Post Office inked a deal with Fujitsu for an IT system called Horizon for managing its sprawling network of branch offices around the country.

That system was the cause of accounting irregularities, as the High Court has now found: over-the-counter payments accepted by Post Office branch managers (called subpostmasters, or SPMs) sometimes did not tally with the Horizon system’s accounting.

The judge found that when these inaccuracies were reported to the Post Office by SPMs, the public sector body showed “the most dreadful complacency, and total lack of interest in investigating these serious issues, bordering on fearfulness of what might be found if they were properly investigated.”

So concerned was the judge by the Post Office and Fujitsu evidence that he was shown during the group litigation that he is passing a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, as was reported from court. In addition, some of the SPMs were given permission to pursue the Post Office on charges of malicious prosecution.

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