Times: "MPs Want To Read The Small Print In £440m Army Recruits Deal"

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by soleil, Sep 26, 2013.

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  1. "A group of MPs intends to examine why a multimillion-pound contract to privatise Army recruitment has run into difficulty.

    Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said that she would like to investigate the £440 million, decade-long contract granted by the Ministry of Defence to Capita, the outsourcing giant, last year.

    The deal was supposed to free 1,000 soldiers from recruitment roles and enable them to return to frontline fighting duties. Instead, a delay in installing a computer system to handle recruitment means that hundreds of troops have been drafted back in to help to process a backlog of people wanting to join the Regular Army and the Territorial Army.

    The extra military personnel are also assisting with a critical drive to expand the Army Reserve, the new name for the TA, which must grow by more than 10,000 part-time soldiers within five years — a challenging target even without IT issues affecting recruitment.

    “The Government is completely seduced by the mythology that bringing in the private sector company [means that] things will be delivered better and cheaper,” Mrs Hodge said. “Time and again we find that actually the Government has entered into a contract where the private sector fails to deliver and nevertheless still gets paid and the taxpayer gets ripped off.”

    The PAC is planning to look at the way in which a number of large outsourcing companies delivered services for the public sector. “This [the Army recruitment contract] is another example that I would very much like to dig into,” Mrs Hodge said.

    Capita had hoped to install an IT system to deliver savings in Army recruitment and speed up the process of hiring full-time and part-time soldiers when it took charge of the programme in April.

    The MoD, however, said that it needed to use a special, secure IT platform, designed by a consortium of technology and defence companies that provides the military with all of its computer-related solutions.

    The Atlas Consortium, comprising HP, Fujitsu, CGI and Cassidian, was supposed to deliver the so-called secure hosting platform to Capita and the MoD in October of last year. The deadline was moved to January because of changes to the order and the product was eventually delivered in April.

    Continuing teething problems, however, have meant that the platform has yet to be finalised.

    This means that Capita is still not using the IT system that it had planned to implement. A spokeswoman for the company directed questions on what was the cause of the delay to the MoD.

    A spokeswoman for the MoD said: “The Army continues to work closely, with the support of its recruiting partner Capita, with the Atlas Consortium, to ensure the IT systems meet the needs of this major, complex project, as soon as possible. We can be clear, however, that the Army continues to recruit and temporary adjustments have been made to the application process. The Army is always recruiting and continues to offer exciting and rewarding careers in both the Regular and Reserve forces.”

    An MoD source has previously said that the Capita recruitment contract was drawn up to ensure that payment happened only when the number of required new recruits was delivered."
     
  2. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    It's probably worth pointing out that in terms of recruiting costs per head, the RN & RM are still half that of the Army and the tri-service IT recruiting operating system has been in use for about 8 years. Whilst dated it hasn't stopped working - the only difference is the people using it. The replacement tri service recruiting system is about a year behind schedule.
     
  3. If the MPs are really that interested, they could read back copies of Private Eye. The ones published prior to the award of the contract. All of this was foreseen, and not just for this project. ALL govt. IT projects, both local and national, have a tendency to go Pete Tong almost before the ink dries.

    Depressing, isn't it?
     
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  4. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    The problem in many cases is not that of the contracted company but the contract put out to tender. The Armed Forces are notorious for drafting poor contracts due to the fact the people writing them don`t speak to the end user so the product is not fit for purpose. It is easily remedied but until we collectively consult subject experts rather than personnel managers with no practical experience, it will continue to happen.
     
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  5. That's one view.
     
  6. I think another big problem in government contracts, both IT and otherwise, is requirement creep. A constant trickle of changes makes it more difficult and expensive to deliver output. Faces change too regularly in military jobs and when they do needs often change too. It's a problem in all IT projects but this just exacerbates it on military ones.


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  7. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    Requirement creep is exactly the point.

    Those writing the contract don't consult the end user so when the product is delivered it's not fit for task so the contract parameters are changed which delays delivery.

    An example: A nationwide rail ticket booking scheme to replace rail warrants is trialed in one of the busiest admin centres in UK. Works a treat. Rolled out nationally, complete cluster. Reason? The admin centre is only 4 miles from the destination of 75% of its customers and doesn't require rail tickets for the bulk of its clients whereas the less busy but more different offices require rail travel for 100% of clients.
     
  8. In all fairness to the Contracts Wallahs (sorry, Commercial Officers), they are supposed to work to a defined Statement of Requirement. That may or may not have been written by the Front Line Commands. In most cases today, the Contractor is to be treated as a Partner. HM Government dreamed that one up and now we have it. "We share the profits and the risks": well we got half of it as reality. If the risk was already written into the SoR as a don't know/didn't think/that can't happen, Aunty Betty becomes the proud owner of the Risk.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't recruitment supposed to be creamy slot for Service types who'd been deployed or otherwise active? Is the argument now that Servicemen/women should be only tasked on deployment or other direct operations? You know, that could translate into overstretch.
     
  9. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    It's the old "An elephant is a mouse designed by a committee" conundrum - if all parties are correctly consulted, the customer is less likely to keep moving the goalposts on the contract winner and it saves incurring additional costs. Lots of money is wasted by the "good ideas club" adding bells & whistles which are nice to have for managers and empty the pot before the initial project is actually fit for task.

    Recruiting-wise the "permanent staff" are on FTRS limited commitment contracts in the RN/RM which is cheap and provides continuity. The Army & RAF have always used regular service personnel, drafted-in for a couple of years, living the "Life of Riley" on SSSA. The Army/RAF argument was that a potential joiner wants to speak to a young & current uniformed serviceperson, but it costs lots. The RN/RM relies on loan ratings requiring "harmony time" living locally in their own accommodation to provide the young & current element. Problem is that very often that may well be the "walking wounded" as manpower is so tight. What we don't need is disaffected individuals who are unhappy with their lot.
     
  10. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    In some respects the Army's loss has been our gain as potential joiners have changed career aspirations based on the perceived incompetence of the Army civilian contracted recruitment initiative. It's not to say the RN & RM don't make mistakes, but unnecessary processing delays are a huge and perhaps understandable source of frustration.

    As with all military private finance initiatives to date, there have been no savings, only increased expenditure to put right the damage already caused.

    For potential RN personnel, the "waiting lists" to join are the biggest turn-off but as there are more applicants than jobs available, there is little that can be done short of making people redundant to create vacancies. The waiting lists to join the Naval Service are tumbling at the moment and for Royal Marines, it's currently entirely feasible to join in a couple of months if fully fit and "good to go" from the outset.
     

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