Capita-led recruitment project hamstrung by Army’s ‘antiquated IT system’, MPs told

Written by Beckie Smith on 16 January 2019 in News
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The MoD and the Army made a number of errors during the troubled project to help meet the Army’s recruitment targets, officials have admitted 

 Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

The Ministry of Defence and the Army made “bad mistakes” in their handling of an underperforming contract with the outsourcing company Capita to recruit armed forces personnel, MPs have heard.

Errors included insisting that the outsourcer used an “antiquated IT system” to handle recruitment, Lt Gen Tyrone Urch, commander of the Army home command group, told the Public Accounts Committee this week. He added that the Army should not have allowed Capita to use what he called a “centralised call system way of doing business”.

“In hindsight we lost our ability to nurture our candidates, to look after them, and to pay them the attention that they really deserved,” he said.

The Recruiting Partnering Project contract was intended to significantly increase numbers of soldiers and reservists by transforming the Army’s approach to recruitment. Issues uncovered by a recent National Audit Office report included a website that was launched four years late and at triple the planned cost.

Capita has spent £60m more than planned on developing that platform, which the company’s chief executive Jonathan Lewis said it needed to do to allow it to fulfil its contractual obligations.


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Capita will retain the intellectual property rights for the platform. The army will continue to use the platform after the contract ends, paying an “industry standard fee”, Lewis said.

Despite the contract's failings, Lt Gen Urch contended that the contract had not been a failure, because it was still on track to save around £200m and had allowed the Army to return around 900 soldiers who had previously worked in recruitment to the front line.

The contract was initially forecast to save the Army £267m. Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove said the £200m figure represented a “very significant saving”, but conceded: “Has the contract been anywhere near as successful as we’d like? Clearly not.”

He said the MoD was working to adopt an “increasingly mature and sophisticated” approach to outsourcing.

When the committee questioned why Capita had been given such specific instructions on how to run the recruitment – such as specifying the IT system it should use – Lovegrove said he “wouldn’t put this particular contract into the category of a mature and sophisticated one when it was assigned”.

Despite Capita’s failings to date, those giving evidence were insistent that its performance was improving.

Urch predicted that Capita would be recruiting around 60% of the personnel demanded by the contract by the end of this recruitment year in March. He said this should rise to 80% by the end of the next year and that he had a “high degree of confidence that by end of contract we will be recruiting everybody that we need”. 

About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @beckie__smith.

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