Lessons have been learned from troubled Capita recruitment contract – MoD

Department insists improvements are being made in its response to MPs’ report

Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images

The Ministry of Defence has pledged that lessons are being learned from a £1.3bn decade-long Army recruitment partnership with outsourcing giant Capita that has consistently failed to deliver.

Signed in 2012 the deal – known as the Recruiting Partnering Project (RPP) has missed every target for recruiting regulars and reserves. The annual shortfall has never been less than 21%, and in some years has reached 45%.

According to MPs on parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the size of the deficit in recruit numbers has increased over the past three years and is expected to be 40% below target for 2018-19, when the final figures are known.

The 2017-18 shortfall in provision equated to 7,000 fewer regular and reserve soldiers and officers being recruited than was required. The programme is also now forecast to provide the MoD with a lower level of savings than was originally anticipated, dropping from the expected £267m to £180m by 2022.

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An earlier report from the National Audit Office found that one of the project’s major failings was a new website developed by Capita for online Army recruitment that had launched four years late and at triple the originally budgeted cost. 

The PAC report published in March found that one of the difficulties faced by the outsourcer was the Army’s insistence that it used an “antiquated IT system”.

In Feburary, Capita chief executive Jon Lewis wrote to committee chair Meg Hillier to outline some of the new technologies and practices it has implemented to improve outcomes. This includes “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. 

The company is also undertaking research to ascertain “the impact the new IT system is having”, Lewis added.

In its formal response to the MPs’ report, the MoD said it now recognised that the RPP was “initially overly complex” and that lessons had to be taken forward.

It said a dedicated programme called the Future Recruiting Programme had already been established and was tasked with identifying the best approach to attract and select the armed forces’ future workforce from 2022. It said the new programme would cover the Army, Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy.

“Lessons from the previous project are being captured to inform development of the programme,” the response said. “The Army will also continue to seek to develop and transform RPP to enable the most seamless transition to FRP in due course.”

The PAC had also called on the ministry to “simplify and streamline” the Army recruitment process with pilot schemes aimed at reducing recruitment times.

The MoD said a transformational change project designed to enhance “critical issues” with the recruiting pipeline had now completed and would be rolled out nationally across the summer.


Sam Trendall

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