Fresh shots have been fired at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) from both government and private sector for failures in procuring public contracts.
The department must share the blame with outsourcing giant Capita for “failing dismally” at meeting the Army’s recruitment targets, a service which the FTSE 250 firm was tasked with delivering in 2012, MPs said on Friday.
The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) group of MPs accused the Army of “naively” launching into the decade-long contract, and said Capita did not fully understand the complexity of it.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said the contract was “intended to meet the Army’s annual recruitment targets and save money in the process”.
“It has failed dismally at the former and has a mountain to climb in order to hit its target for the latter.”
A December report by the National Audit Office found as of July 2018, the Army was seven per cent below its required strength in terms of regular soldier numbers due to the lack of successful recruitment.
In response Capita told the PAC and City A.M. a January marketing campaign had led to an increase in applications.
A Capita spokesperson said: "As we have previously stated, there were problems with the contract which the new management team has worked hard to address. These efforts are starting to bear fruit.”
“While we welcome these developments, it remains to be seen whether they will deliver concrete results,” said Hillier.
The PAC said problems procuring the recruitment contract were similar to those on the MoD’s other major contract with Capita on the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, which it will end five years early due to poor performance.
Separately, three industry chief executives have told City A.M. in recent weeks the MoD stands out in Whitehall for procurement shortcomings.
Since the Cabinet Office’s publication of a so-called playbook instructing departments how to outsource public services, all three, who wished to remain anonymous, have cast doubt on the department’s ability to stick to the cross-government guidelines
One said: “The playbook has all the right intentions, but whether certain departments stick to it is another matter. The MoD is a serial offender in this regard.”
An Army spokesperson said: “We are fully committed to improving our recruiting process. Working with Capita we have put in place a plan to address the challenges.
“The Army has developed a range of measures to speed up the recruitment process. This includes new measures to reduce the time between applying and starting training, greater access to military role models for recruits and a new IT system.
“The Army meets all its operational commitments to keep Britain safe."