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UK Ministry of Defence tries again to procure £1.7bn tri-service recruitment system

New guys can't do a worse job than Capita, right? Right?

The UK Armed Forces are looking to restart a £1.7bn procurement for recruitment and onboarding of personnel to cover extensive IT investments as well as process outsourcing.

The move follows in the footsteps of an earlier Army deal which saw Capita under-perform on a £1.3bn recruiting project.

Under a 10-year contract, the UK services are looking for a single, common, tri-service recruiting process under the banner of the Armed Forces Recruiting Programme.

In a contract notice published this week, the Ministry of Defence said it is looking for significant IT investment and "a culture of innovation" as well as outsourcing the recruitment services.

"The Digital Solution will be the core enabler to a candidate centric experience from Expression of Interest to recruitment onboarding. Candidates will receive timely and personalised communications whilst integrating with key MOD systems. Exploitation of management and business information will enable data-driven insights and decision making for performance management and continuous improvement," the tender claimed.

The contract is set for an initial seven years full operational period plus an option to extend for three years. The contract value could be worth between £1bn to £1.75bn, the document said. The ministry is holding a so-called "virtual Industry Day" on 29 September to discuss the contract.

It is the ministry's second shot at getting the procurement off the ground. An earlier tender notice was published in December 2020, which put the maximum price of the contract at £1.6bn.

But it was forced to abandon efforts in July 2021.

"Following the publishing of the integrated reviews, the programme has identified that its initial procurement process no longer fully reflects the updated needs of [the MoD]," a notice published at the time said.

The government had "taken the opportunity to further refine its requirements and develop its planning for the operation of competitive dialogue."

"This will lead to a new revised procurement encompassing a clarified and developed risk-based approach to transition and transformation that will provide assurance on continuity of delivery, setting out the complexity of the requirements involved and testing bidders' understanding of these factors," it said.

The move was followed by a government statement in August which said the Ministry of Defence was "re-engaging with industry to deliver a tri-service recruiting solution."

It said it expected the procurement would see a new service in place from 2024, one which would "situate the candidate at the heart of the recruitment process while ensuring that the Armed Forces achieve the right quality and quantity of candidates to satisfy demand while remaining agile and responsive to change."

It follows a project in which Capita took on recruitment for the Army as part of a £1.3bn project.

In July 2020, it turned out that Capita's 2017 decision to implement bespoke IT systems led to nearly 25,000 fewer applications to join the military in the following year.

The switch-on of bespoke Defence Recruiting System (DRS) IT systems contributed to the lowest number of Army recruits signing up since 2013 as well as a drop of 22 per cent in the number of applicants, according to a Freedom of Information request.

But that did not put them off. In December 2020, Capita was awarded a £140m extension to the DRS contract and tacked on a project to migrate certain systems to Microsoft Azure. The deal was set to see the notorious Recruiting Partnership Project deal extended from 2022 until 2024.

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee had labelled the contract "abysmal" a year earlier. ®

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