back to article Politicos demand full list of Fujitsu's public sector contract wins in wake of Post Office scandal

British MPs have written to the country's Treasury to demand details of all public sector contracts with Fujitsu as the Japanese tech supplier struggles in the wake of the Horizon Post Office Scandal. The Treasury Committee has asked for details of contracts at 21 departments and organizations within the Treasury's sphere of …

  1. Dr Who

    I think El Reg should launch the Fujitsu Contract Tracker (FuCT).

    A Google sheet should do it - listing the contracts, along with value, duration and competition status as the info becomes available.

    Maybe crowdsource the info from readers.

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Coat

    "If a contract was directly awarded, please provide the rationale,"

    Two obvious reasons here for the contracts being directly awarded.

    1) "No one has been fired for hiring Fujitsu, see the Horizon project"

    or

    2) "The size of the brown envelope was seriously impressive."

  3. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Bullet dodged

    Imagine the sense of relief / scuttling around burning evidence [delete as appropriate] going on at Capita/CapGemini/Atos etc. while Fujitsu are quite rightly in the firing line.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Good luck

    The Treasury is out of control and desperately needs a deep audit and reform.

    I don't think they are going to bow to some peasant MP demands. In my opinion, they think they are above any scrutiny.

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    Not just "do they have the contact and how was it awarded", but if they have the contract then a full audit of the code, who has access, and traceability regarding any changes made.

    1. KarMann Silver badge
      Facepalm

      And apparently, given their track record, the follow-up question 'No, who really has access?' would not be uncalled for.

  6. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

    When has the performance of any contract been measured by the Government? How many red-listed contracts have had significant changes, unless the Government wanted to do an about face? The NAO basically ends up urinating into a westerly ...

    Has any contract that ends up 2, 3 or even 4 times over budget ever impacted on future contracts awarded to that company which then turn out to be 2, 3 or 4 times over budget or fail?

    Having said that, in this case I think Fujitsu is being made a scapegoat for the fundamental mismanagement by the Post Office. MPs are just trying to deflect blame away from the PO management and its Government overseers. It is the *Post Office*, who bought a faulty system from ICL, *they* should have been auditing and checking *their own figures* and identifying faults in that new system to report to Fujitsu for full rectification (sorry, just had a flash of Electroboom ...)

    Rule one of bespoke software purchase is never assume it's bug free or even correct out of the door ...

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      I have been wondering who signed off the releases. Every time I sent something off to production I knew that I was on the hook if it turned to crap.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      - Award contract to a company you / your friend have an interest in.

      - Do just enough to cater for the basic aims but make sure to leave in lots of bugs and not include any reasonable facility for expansion.

      - Wait until people notice the bugs, demand expansion, etc. etc.

      - Do JUST enough to be slightly cheaper than throwing the whole thing out and starting again, at enormous cost.

      - Leave just enough bugs / unfinished items in the code to come back to it time and time again for years.

      - Give you / your friend / your MP a percentage of the profits.

      It's almost literally that, over and over again, contracts DESIGNED to almost-fail so you "have to" pay them money again because nobody else would touch it, but the flaws and shortfalls never quite get fixed.

      It's far more profitable to sell a broken product twice than a working product first time.

    3. ElPedro100

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      "It is the *Post Office*, who bought a faulty system from ICL,"

      While I agree to a certain extent, it was Fujitsu that developed a not fit for purpose system for PO and PO accepted it knowing full well that it didn't work properly. PO then went on to unjustifiably victimise their employees while Fujitsu just covered their own arses. This was not an off the shelf product. It was specifically built for a task that it didn't do properly.

      Equally to blame IMHO.

      1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

        Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

        >>it was specifically built for a task that it didn't do properly

        I may just be a cynical old grey-beard but from one point of view Horizon did exactly what it was built to do... it gave the PO a way to be rid of any postmaster/mistress someone didn't like, for whatever reason. For example, complain Horizon was broken? oh, I'm sorry computer says you are £30k out - where did that £30k go? What do you mean evidence? Computer says you took it so you are guilty. Bye.

        UCL document referring to Project Horizon and the correctness, or otherwise, of computers; City Uni document looking specifically at the presumption and its impact on Horizon cases..

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      Fujitsu's huge mistake was rebranding ICL. It would be like Toyota slapping their name badge on a sh*t heap produced by the clowns at British Leyland!

      Simply unrecoverable reputational damage.

    5. Robert 22

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      I recall that, years ago when I worked for a Canadian R&D organization, being told that we were NOT allowed to consider past performance in the contracting process.

    6. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: "what processes the department has in place to measure the performance of any contracts"

      I would fundamentally disagree with you:

      Rule one of bespoke software purchase is never let someone who is not technically competent be in charge of it!

  7. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    FAIL

    Past performance

    Isn't past performance explicitly excluded from the criteria for choosing a vendor? "Level playing field" and such.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Past performance

      Include, it then consider everyone to be equally as shit as the last vendor.

    2. Snowy Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Past performance

      For people past crimes stop you getting some jobs if that is okay the same should be okay to apply to companies.

  8. Sparkus

    don't care about the contracts, not really

    Information on the pay packets and pension entitlements of Fujitsu managers/executives as well as their counterparts in the various police agencies, HMIC (or whatever they're called now) and Royal Mails are the relevant data here.

  9. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Happy

    Wouldn't it be nice

    ... if IT vendors could go on a block-list for badly forked-up projects.

    Think along the lines: you're a month blocked for each million $CURRENCY of borked project. The bigger the fail, the more time to think about doing better next time.

    And when, after some unavoidable borkage, because what big government IT project doesn't get borked beyond recognition, there won't be any suppliers left.

    ... and that's when the public hand, that was previously only handing out the ching-ching, start developing in-house capability.

    -> Please, wake me up, I'm obviously dreaming again.

    1. Lurko

      Re: Wouldn't it be nice

      We have such a system with our elected governments. Eventually they fuck up to the point that the electorate kick them out, and depending on how badly they do, they face a good few years in the wilderness. Unfortunately, both main parties have shown that a decade or more in the cheap seats is totally insufficient to result in better government, so I'm not convinced the corporate naughty step is going to get the results you'd like.

      1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

        Re: Wouldn't it be nice

        That's the downside of a two-party system. If one's out, the other one's in, by default.

        Only in a true multi-party democracy can you vote a party out into oblivion.

        1. Shalghar

          Re: Wouldn't it be nice

          Except this doesnt seem to work.

          In the 1970ies the german "FDP" was mocked as "Fast Drei Prozent" (almost three percent). Nowadays their support is dwindling again and the old mockery becomes actual truth. Which could mean they fall out of Bundestag again since you need 5 percent to be in.

          This party was effectively voted out for a period but resurrected for reasons unknown although they never changed their key quality: promising one thing, then voting for the opposite and never standing their ground but submit completely to whoever lets them into any coalition.

          Then again the FDP is not much different in corruption and incompetence from the other 5 neoliberal parties in the Bundestag (although the trigger happy anti environmentalists "Die Grünen" really take the cake (or the bacon of hope)when it comes to painfully obvious incompetence in any given field).

          So instead of the amount of parties which share the same targets, maybe some long overdue alternatives might be better to keep out what proved to be poisonous.

    2. Snowy Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Wouldn't it be nice

      Good until we run out of vendors.

      1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

        Re: Wouldn't it be nice

        Yeah, that's when in-house competence should make its resurgence.

        Image, if Bletchley Park would have been run by one of the big IT "service" companies from the 2020s ...

        "We've finally broken the Enigma codes of the Kriegsmarine from June 1941"

        "Heil mein Kamerad, nevermind your troubles. It's 1943, and you have been assimilated into the new Groß-Britain Reich"

        "Anyway, as long as the contract is being paid, we're fine with that. Heil, and so on ..."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wouldn't it be nice

      Given that most of the serious borkage comes from a serious lack of competence on the customer side in providing specs and managing projects I am not convinced HMG moving it all back in house is really going to work.

      Much of the recent outsourcing was a cynical attempt to move people off civil service pensions. When it goes back in house do all those folk get their pensions restored?

      All the direct awards in the article have the common theme "didn't get the replacement up and running in time". Not entirely the contractor's fault perhaps.

  10. h3nb45h3r

    Contract award criteria

    The UK Gov tried to ban Fujitsu from Gov project in the last throws of the coalition government in 2015.

    However they were advised that previous performance could not be used to block a company form any future contracts.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Contract award criteria

      Who wrote that advice?

      Was it Capita?

    2. Daniel Garcia 2

      Re: Contract award criteria

      "However they were advised that previous performance could not be used to block a company from any future contracts."

      There is the rub. It should be the absolute opposite, previous performance should be the primary measuring stick to allow or block a company to bid on future projects.

      Only corrupt intentions can have fathered such a state of affairs.

  11. MrGreen

    The Game is Rigged

    Your tax goes to the treasury.

    The treasury gives your tax to companies.

    Companies give your tax to banks.

    The elite know and control where the tax money is going and invest in those companies.

    Nothing is going to change. The game is rigged. The elite wrote to rules to transfer your wealth to them.

  12. Binraider Silver badge

    Just an obligatory reminder that in UK procurement law, past performance cannot be (legally) used to influence the outcome of a tender on a public contract. (And EU law for that matter).

    Perhaps as well or else all of the giant IT providers would die. Or is that a good thing?

    We could re-write the law of course, but then a certain PM is unduly influenced by familial ownership of such an outfit. To say nothing of the raft of other ministers with corporate interests to further.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICL?

    Remember it was ICL that won the contract for and developed Horizon. Then they were swallowed by Fujitsu. What we're dealing with here is the still twitching corpse if ICL. News coverage constantly refers to the company as things like "Japanese tech giant Fujitsu". It's almost as if the press are either embarrassed that Horizon is the v responsibility of a British subsidiary of a Japanese company, or maybe this is the press buying government/post office spin playing on the general xenophobia of the great unwashed. "It's a Japanese company, it's obviously not the fault of the post office or the government!!"

    If you describe it as what it really is, a British company that's wholly owned by a Japanese company then I think the public perception may shift.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: ICL?

      They bought 80% of ICL in 1990, and the rest in 1998.

      Horizon rolled out in 1999.

      Fujitsu has always had a controlling interest, and it was 100% Fujitsu that supported the unlawful prosecutions.

    2. Bitbeisser

      Re: ICL?

      It's the same with Siemens and Fujitsu. And in extension Nixdorf. Or Amdahl.

      What amazes me with this whole "Post Office" story that the problems happened over a couple of decades, with not just a handful or even a couple dozen of cases in all that time. But almost a thousand of them. That should have raised more than one eyebrow and have someone look into the pattern and deduce that this is not people defrauding the system but some software problem. And it is not that accounting software is something new to the world of IT, it is probably one of the first tasks that computers were used for to handle.

      But then here in the US of A the accounting issues of the Los Angeles Department of Water&Power, which insisted on using an accounting system from PriceWaterhouseCooper, which ended up costing twice as much as original planned and ultimately costing rate payers in excess of US$230 million, on top of more than 100,000 customer annually getting "estimated" (rather than properly measured) bills for both water and electricity that are up to 100x the normal/previous water and electricity bills.And at the same time, the DWP is out hundreds of millions of US$ from (commercial) customers that haven't gotten a bill (and hence not paid) for months up to years...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No MOD or HO?

    Interesting to see that there's no mention of the MoD, Home Office (and beneath that numerous police forces), or that I could see the DWP all of whom have massive FJ contracts for running basically everything from Security to EUC...

    I've had the displeasure of dealing with them in all three as a customer, and a sub-supplier and despite the excellence in many of the ground level staff, they haven't covered themselves in glory at any of them.

  15. Ball boy Silver badge

    Long term government contracts

    There's inherently several issues that won't help - and I'm in no way defending the process here:

    1.) Projects will almost certainly change scope during their lifetime (political masters being what they are and all that). A bit like Triggers broom, it'll bear little resemblance to the original specification after a few years so it's hardly surprising the software - all of which have 'snag lists' that require re-working during roll-outs - struggles to evolve correctly;

    2.) The project leaders change over time. This makes it far more difficult to hold people to account, especially if they've long retired;

    3.) Government ministers are not project specialists: they outsource this job to those that are. I'd argue that, pretty much by definition, someone very specialist in designing the spec. for a system such as Horizon must come from a supplier that has skills in that area. As such, their project definition can only be skewed in favour that supplier's solutions even if it's not the ideal fit.

    Add in the inevitable 'incentives' and blame dodging ('Yes Minister' and 'The Thick Of It' are not comedies, they're documentaries) and, well, it doesn't exactly aid transparency and critical thinking!

  16. john.w

    The Post Office's private prosecution are the scandal.

    Fujistu were complicit in telling a court that their software was reliable but it was the Post Office that saw fit to prosecute innocent people when it knew the evidence was unreliable at best. Let's keep the focus on the establishment cronies that are being protected rather than the 'expert' witnesses who were told what to say.

  17. Necrohamster Silver badge

    Musical Chairs

    You could ban Fujitsu from ever getting another government contract, but are HPE, ATOS, Tata etc any better in terms of the quality of their work?

    As a former EDS employee who's been involved in some less-than-successful gov contracts, I'll just leave that as a rhetorical question...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better outcome…

    Attacking Fujitsu and taking away their business is quickly turning into a witch hunt. The truth is that this is only going to hurt the thousands of Fujitsu’s UK employees, 99% of whom probably have nothing to do with the Post Office. This is just an easy/lazy response to the TV drama and the fickle court of public opinion. If anything, go after the leaders at the time. It may make the public happy to see some corporate blood spilt and may even win the Tory’s some votes but it’s a bit like smacking a naughty child rather than dealing with the fundamental problem. I think UKGov would be more than happy to shift the blame to a “Japanese tech giant’ and away from themselves and the Post Office. Aside from the name, Fujitsu UK was and still is fundamentally British.

    It may be more beneficial for UKGov to use this as an opportunity to improve their terrible procurement practices and make all these big tech companies a bit more accountable. There are plenty other examples of IT disasters in public sector. A framework/regulation to which all the UKGov contractors must sign up would be a far better outcome longer term. Something the reduces the number of these big failures would surely benefit us all. After all, it can’t be too long until Capita’s next screwup!

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