Capita CEO flags tech improvements to boost troubled Army recruitment project

Boss writes to select committee to outline measures taken to improve performance

Credit: Sebastian Willnow/DPA/PA Images

In light of the recent scrutiny on Capita’s troubled Army recruitment project, the firm’s chief executive has written to MPs to provide details of “a number of technological and procedural innovations” being introduced to improve the programme’s results.

In December, a report from the National Audit Office found that a Capita-led project to improve recruitment of soldiers and reservists had been beset by major problems. Chief among these was a website that launched four years late at a cost of £113m – triple the original budget. 

Since the 10-year engagement between the Army and Capita began in 2012, recruitment targets have been missed every single year – with annual shortfalls ranging from 21% to 45%, auditors found.

Following the publication of the NAO report, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee launched its own inquiry into the project. 

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In a recent letter to committee chair Meg Hillier, Capita chief executive Jon Lewis claimed that the company is introducing new technologies and practices “that will help us recruit more quickly and effectively”.

“For example, we are finalising improvements to an app that assesses how close candidates are to being fit or strong enough to qualify for certain roles in the Army,” he said. “This can, for example, monitor cardiovascular and muscular tests, such as running or sit-ups, and help the candidate see in which discipline and by how much they need to improve to qualify for the role they seek.”

Lewis also flagged up research conducted by Capita in late 2017 that found that, of those who withdrew during the recruitment process, only 6% did so because they felt it was taking too long. Far more common reasons for dropping out were a change of personal circumstances (31%), various other personal reasons (27%), or a perceived lack of fitness (23%).

This research is currently being repeated, Lewis said, “which should also inform us of the impact the new IT system is having”.

An initial oral evidence session saw Lt Gen Tyrone Urch tell MPs that Capita’s work to deliver the project had initially been hampered by the Army’s insistence that the outsourcer use an “antiquated IT system”.

But 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.

Sam Trendall

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