International translation and interpreting company, Capita, has been fined thousands of pounds for failing to fulfil a large proportion of Ministry of Justice requests for court interpreters, BBC News reported this morning.
A National Audit report comissioned by the government found that Capita had £46,319 of payments, the maximum number permitted, withheld by the Ministry of Justice between May 2012 and November 2013 for deficiencies in service. Additionally, it found that individual judges had filed for £7,229 worth of wasted cost orders against the company as compensation for interpreters‘ failures in attendance. Of the numerous other company errors included in the report, one claimed that Capita had registered a pet dog as a viable interpreter.
In an effort to cut costs, the Ministry had arranged to outsource the provision of interpreters to Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in 2011. The contract had not begun when Capita took over ALS, and thus its £90 million contract with the Ministry of Justice, in late 2011.
According to The Lawyer, when the company took over the account, it had not got the resources available with 1,340 people registered to work, but only 280 who had passed the necessary quality assessment. Consequently, it only met 58 per cent of bookings against a 98 per cent target. By 2012, MPs had accused Capita of causing “total chaos” after its lack of staff had caused disruptions to many trials. Following this, the numbers of interpreters dropped again in 2013 due to reductions in Capita’s mileage allowance for its interpreters.
Although the company’s fulfilment of bookings has since improved to around 94-95% in the last four months, after packages for interpreters were made more attractive, it is still falling short of its target.
Margaret Hodge of the Labour party, who commissioned the report after receiving complaints, has said she is “umimpressed” by the statistic and commented on the crucial nature of Capita’s services: “This is a vital service for ensuring that people who do not speak English as a first language have fair access to justice.”
Despite the problems, Conservative justice minister Shailesh Vara said the contract had saved taxpayers £15m in its first year, stating that “dramatic improvements had been made over the life of the contract so far.”
The firm itself claims that, after reviewing its terms and conditions for interpreters with the MoJ, interpreters are now “tracking to the target level of service required.”
Sources Include: BBC News; The Lawyer
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