Infamous IT bungler Capita still hasn't delivered usable ICT systems for British Army recruitment, despite signing the contract to do so five years ago, it emerged in Parliament on Tuesday.
Crapita Capita has a contract with the Ministry of Defence, the Recruitment Partnering Project, which was signed for £1.3bn in 2012 to take over large chunks of Army recruitment, freeing up soldiers to return to operational units.
As well as dealing with day-to-day recruitment admin, Capita also supplies the ICT which underpins Army recruitment. At least, that was the plan.
Since the deal was signed, its costs have ballooned and it has been beset by problem after problem, while the IT has consistently failed to deliver. Two years ago it emerged that Crapita’s pisspoor system was so bad that then-Defence Secretary Philip Hammond had considered a £50m bailout to buy a recruitment IT system that actually worked.
Instead the Army and Capita lumbered on, using the existing and somewhat creaky military IT systems that had been in place beforehand.
At Tuesday's parliamentary Defence Committee hearing, Labour MP Phil Wilson asked Defence Secretary Michael Fallon: "Do you have any concerns regarding how overdue the solution is, given that in 2013 the MoD, in the words of the National Audit Office, decided to contract with Capita to 'mitigate the risks' in providing the ICT?"
"There have been difficulties, you are right," Sir Michael replied. "We already have legacy IT systems in place at the moment being used to provide adequate performance in the interim."
Army recruitment levels were not affected by the failure of Capita to provide a modern recruitment IT system, the Defence Secretary insisted, while admitting: "We continue to press Capita to give us as early a delivery date as possible next year."
"So it could be beyond next year?" shot back Wilson.
"I hope not," sighed Sir Michael, injudiciously adding: "I've not heard anybody speculate about 2018. I want to see it next year."
Separately, defence minister Mike Penning revealed that Capita has asked for the Recruitment Partnering Project to be delayed to November next year, having been working to an already-delayed target of "spring 2017".
Back in 2013, a flurry of forum posts appeared on popular military-themed website ARRSE from despairing potential recruits asking just how they were supposed to actually join the Army. While the inevitable problems at the start of the contract have since died down, even as recently as last year some ARRSErs were tearing their hair out at the "appalling experience".
The Army's total strength – including regulars, reservists, the Military Provost Guard Service and full-time reservists who normally cannot be deployed outside the UK – stood at 121,000 in September. ®