The contract was plagued with issues from long waiting times and high drop-out rates for candidates © MoD/Crown copyright
The contract was plagued with issues from long waiting times and high drop-out rates for candidates © MoD/Crown copyright

'Army and Capita took too long to address recruitment failures'

1 March 2019

A recruitment contract between the Army and Capita was ‘overly complex and poorly implemented’ and addressing underperformance has taken too long, according to MPs.

In its report into the failures of the Recruiting Partnering Project contract, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that the Army and Capita had both “underestimated the complexity” of the Army’s recruitment policies and processes at the outset.

The report said that Capita had entered into the contract while “chasing revenue”, without fully understanding the over-specified contract, which contained over 10,000 requirements, and lacking the specialist expertise in armed forces recruitment.

Coupled with the Army’s passive management, the report said Capita’s performance was “abysmal” and the firm had failed to meet the Army’s recruitment targets every year of the contract.

The contract, which the Army and Capita entered into in 2012, was plagued with issues such as waiting periods of over a year between candidates applying and being accepted, with candidate drop-out rates of up to 47% during the process.

The report noted that both parties had been too slow to act on the recruitment shortfalls and when they did introduce a change in approach, such as the failed attempt to centralise recruitment, processes were not trialled before introduction and demonstrated a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the importance of face-to-face contact with applicants.

The report also noted that the Army and Capita failed to simplify the recruitment process and only recently introduced an essential online recruitment system, more than four years late.

Over the last year, the report said the Army and Capita have introduced changes to the recruitment approach, but the Army still does not expect to fully meet its recruitment targets until 2022, when the contract is due to end.

The contract was initially forecast to save the Army up to £267m over 10 years, but that number has reduced to £180m. The PAC said it was “highly sceptical” the Army would secure the financial benefits before 2022.

As part of its recommendations, the PAC has requested updates from the Ministry of Defence on how it is moving forward with these issues. MPs also noted the ministry’s failed contract with Capita to transform the management of its estate, which was ended five years early.

Chair of the PAC Meg Hillier (Labour) said: “It has taken Capita and the Army far too long to address underperformance. In particular, it beggars belief that more than half of applications still take around 10 months or longer to process. Almost half of applicants are voluntarily dropping out of the process but action to address this has been inadequate.”

She continued while the Army and Capita have introduced a number of changes over the past year, it remains to be seen whether concrete results will be delivered to address long-standing skill shortages and ensure the Army has the capability to meet both pressing challenges and those in the future.

Giving evidence to the PAC in January ahead of the report, Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, commander of Army Home Command Group, admitted that the Army made some bad mistakes and errors.

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