Army spaffed millions up the wall on flawed Capita online recruiting system - report

May cost £50m to fix - on top of £15m already down drain


The Ministry of Defence's implementation of a computer system for an online recruitment drive has reportedly been far worse than the "teething problems" the UK government coughed to in December.

According to The Times (subscription needed), the British Army's £1.3bn scheme to allow the MoD to privatise its recruiting and move it online has been hamstrung by a series of blunders after Capita was awarded the contract in 2011.

It's understood that around £15.5m has been wasted on the Recruitment Partnering Project to date.

In a confidential report by IT research outfit Gartner - seen by the newspaper - concerns were expressed about the entire plan, including a poor project management team and delays that were allowed to spiral out of control.

It was also claimed that the Army's recruitment division had failed to challenge MoD policy in 2011 that had apparently favoured the less suitable of the two competing bidders chasing the contract.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is said to be mulling over a £50m payout for new tech to fix the computer system, which is now not expected to be live until 2015, the General Election year.

An MoD spokeswoman told The Register that the Army had already "acknowledged a number of problems" with its Capita recruitment partnership late last year.

"Ministers have gripped these problems and put in place a number of fixes to correct the issues that had emerged," she said.

In the meantime, the MoD is bringing in "work-arounds and mitigation measures to the old IT platform to simplify the application process," she added.

When pressed by your correspondent about the £50m Hammond is said to be considering to pay for a new IT solution, the spokeswoman told us: "We wouldn’t comment on the figures from a leaked document."

A source close to the situation claimed to El Reg that - despite concerns about the computer system - applications from wannabe soldiers will continue to be processed face-to-face once a form has been filled in online.

In mid-December last year, the government's under-secretary of state on defence, Lord Astor, told Parliament:

We have been very open about the fact that there have been teething problems. The Army and Capita are fixing these. The new website will be up and running in January, and there will be a faster recruitment pipeline. Temporary adjustments have been made to applications to ensure that we continue to progress new recruits. We want to cut out any blockages there.

However, the peer's definition of "new" might be considered a loose one. We asked the MoD about the status of the website as of today.

The Army's spokeswoman told us: "It’s not brand new, i.e. it’s still the old domain name, etc, but we’ve improved it to make it easier to navigate and more user-friendly."

We asked Capita to comment on this story, but it hadn't got back to us at time of writing. ®


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