THE IT giant at the centre of the Post Office Horizon scandal has been given an extension to a multimillion Government contract for running England’s flood alerts.

Fujitsu, a Japanese tech firm, has a £19.5 million deal with the Environment Agency to run England’s flood defence warnings systems until September 2025, according to the I newspaper.

The Environment Agency, a public body, extended the firm’s contract at the end of December despite its role in the Post Office scandal. 

It comes amid renewed focus on the Post Office scandal following the airing of ITV’s primetime drama on the subject – Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

The National: A new drama told the story of the Post Office scandalThe ITV drama has brought a renewed focus on the Post Office scandal. 

More than 700 Post Office managers were convicted between 1999 and 2015 after Fujitsu’s accounting software made it look as though money were missing from their sites.

The Prime Minister has described the scandal as “an appalling miscarriage of justice” and suggested all postmasters involved could have their names cleared.

Speaking to the I newspaper, programme director at the Institute for Government said: “Fujitsu provides services to the Government through a range of framework agreements and contracts, some awarded as recently as a few weeks ago.

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“Given the problems with the company’s software and the serious questions about its response to the scandal, the Government will want to consider whether the company meets any of the criteria for exclusion from future contracts.”

The Environment Agency’s deal with Fujitsu to provide the Future Flood Warnings System (FFWS), which maps alerts for the public, partners and media, was first signed eight years ago and has been extended on a number of occasions since.

A procurement process for the replacement system – dubbed the Next Flood Warning System – took place in 2023 and the Environment Agency is set to sign a deal with a supplier in early 2024, for which Fujitsu is in the running.

The system is relied on by hundreds of thousands of households although last year members of the public raised concerns over its accuracy after the pilot of an automated format at the end of 2022.

The Guardian reported that people complained they had received flood warnings that failed to materialise or alternatively that warnings had come too late.

The Environment Agency faced criticism for relying on the autopilot system during Storm Babet in October.

The system works by recording readings from river sensors into computer models, which then raise potential alerts that are assessed by workers to see if these are realistic with the autopilot system removing the human element with warnings issued automatically.

Fujitsu said in promotional material published on its website that it has managed an “increased level of automation within the system”

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Former sub-postmaster turned Tory MP Duncan Baker said lats year it was a “kick in the teeth” for those impacted by the scandal that the Government continued to work with Fujitsu.

Senior Tory MP David Davis previously told the BBC that any new contracts with Fujitsu should be paused while Labour MP Kate Osborne called for no new Government contracts for the firm.

Asked if the Government would consider further work with Fujitsu, the Prime Minister’s (below) official spokesman said: “The culpability or otherwise of Fujitsu is something that is being examined as part of the independent inquiry process.”

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A spokesman for Fujitsu said: “The current Post Office Horizon IT statutory inquiry is examining complex events stretching back over 20 years to understand who knew what, when, and what they did with that knowledge.

“The inquiry has reinforced the devastating impact on postmasters’ lives and that of their families, and Fujitsu has apologised for its role in their suffering.

“Fujitsu is fully committed to supporting the inquiry in order to understand what happened and to learn from it.”

They added that it would be inappropriate to comment further “out of respect for the inquiry process”.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “All Environment Agency contracts are subject to strict government procurement regulations before being awarded.

"We have recently extended the Fujitsu contract for a short period of time to ensure our vital flood warning system remained in place while we appoint a longer-term supplier, which is expected to be confirmed shortly.

“Automated alerts proved a critical contingency tool during Storm Babet protecting people and properties from flooding, and expert Environment Agency Flood Warning Officers set the river or tidal levels that trigger them.”