U.K. Post Office scandal sparks contractor accountability debate
The recent furor in the United Kingdom over the Post Office’s wrongful prosecutions of hundreds of sub-postmasters for alleged fraud has put the government’s relationship with private contractors firmly under the spotlight and raised questions about how companies could be held more accountable in future.
Fujitsu won a contract to install its Horizon IT system within Post Office branches in 1999. Although bugs, discrepancies, and other issues relating to the accounting technology were apparent early on, the Post Office dismissed numerous concerns as “teething” problems that were down to sub-postmasters to resolve—by covering financial losses from their own pockets—rather than raise the issue with Fujitsu, upon which the organization was heavily dependent.
Over the following 15 years, more than 700 sub-postmasters were wrongfully prosecuted, dozens went bankrupt, and at least four committed suicide.