back to article Army spaffed MILLIONS up the wall on flawed Capita online recruiting system - report

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 …

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1.3 billion?????

For an online recruitment system?

Which IT company saw them coming?

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

One with highly paid directorships waiting for whoever signed the order.

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g e
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Re: 1.3 billion?????

I'll do it for 7.5 million, conditional on a copy of the requirements first.

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

"For an online recruitment system?"

Nope, for an IT system and then doing the recruiting, over the next ten years. Unfortunately that doesn't make the value any better, because according to the Daily Telegraph that amounted to £14k for every soldier recruited (and that was when project costs were a mere £1bn, so we could be looking at £18k per soldier recruited by now).

Are there any polite words to describe those involved in defence procurement?

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

"I'll do it for 7.5 million, conditional on a copy of the requirements first."

I'll do it for £1,000.

Undercutting's a bitch, ain't it?

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Re: I'll do it for £1,000.

No, you won't. Coz you ain't got an army of muppets getting all the accreditations and ISO bullshit you need to even get to bid.

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@Stretch - Re: I'll do it for £1,000.

"No, you won't. Coz you ain't got an army of muppets getting all the accreditations and ISO bullshit you need to even get to bid."

By the sounds of things you don't need to have anything. You just have to make it look as if you can do the job.

That's what Capita have done, isn't it?

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

> Are there any polite words to describe those involved in defence procurement?

Not unless you think 'corrupt' and 'thieving' are polite words.

Another outstanding example of privatisation making everything cheaper for the people whose privates are getting the benefits.

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

Have they thougth of just using Craigslist?

kandaharen.craigslist.af/soldiers/

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

Capita saw them coming and true to form appear to have screwed it up, but that should not shock anyone, least of all the government or MoD who have a long history of being let down and screwed over by Capita.

I think the government ethics committee (if it actually exists) should look closely at the relationship and bank accounts of Capita, it's brass and that of the government procurement leadership.

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

When any govt contractor screws up wholeheartedly like this, they should be given the option of dropping all associated costs or being struck off the list.

Had this policy been implemented years ago none of this would be happening now

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

Or the army should be allowed a free day to do whatever they want to the Capita managers

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

Simply: No.

Back in the late 70's or early 80's (memory is fading) I worked in a metal engineering company, we won a sub-contract to machine forgings (forgings FFS!) for what ultimately (we didn't know this at the time) turned out to be a simple earth spike. i.e. a piece of metal you pushed into the ground to earth equipment & was generally left in the bloody ground when Tommy moved on. Disposable you might say.

OK, details: We were provided forgings, by the 10's of thousands, and we had to machine a point on the pointy end (which was already pointy) & drill & tap a hole (0BA if I recall correctly) on the fat end. After setting up the old capstan to do this we quoted 2 or 3 pence a spike & got the contract. We thought it was an excellent deal, as we only needed an apprentice to load the hopper, it utilised an EOL machine, we got scrappage for the swarf & it earned money.

We discovered, many years later, that each spike was sold to the MOD for £15.00 a pop.

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

"Are there any polite words to describe those involved in defence procurement?" No!

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Re: I'll do it for £1,000.

Made me laugh.... Point up for you, sir!

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Re: 1.3 billion????? And, I thought I saw "Captcha" related to recruiting...

Certainly looks, now, like CAPTURE, as in capture the bid, the money, and the glory...

This bit got my eye:

" spokeswoman told us: "We wouldn’t comment on the figures from a leaked document.""

So, the would not prefer to comment on leaked truths, hahahaha. Does "leaked document" confirm the authenticity of the document? She did not use enough weasel words, such as saying, "presumed leaked document, the progeny of which is debatable and unconfirmed as yet, and coulde be either a red herring, or just bait to purposely embarrass us needlessly but purposefully...." hehehehe

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Re: 1.3 billion????? And, I thought I saw "Captcha" related to recruiting...

While I agree with all the comments about the costs being ridiculous surly another question to ask is "Why nit simply pay the soldiers more?". They've clearly got the money and higher salaries may well mean that recruitment would no longer be a problem.

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Re: 1.3 billion?????

Sounds like the costs for replacing light bulbs in Government Buildings that came to public realisation some years ago now. I believe the figure was £98 per bulb to supply and fit..............

As ever context is important to understand the relative value for money for such a service

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@Capita

It states in the top of the article, Capita pay once recieve nothing pay again and recieve nothing again

Are the joys of having one wheel grease the other

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Re: @Capita

We all saw this coming when Capita got the contract. They do accounting software for local government and they are not very good at that, hence the private sector has better solutions. Maybe public procurement processes should look at a companies past record of delivering on projects rather than how much they are asking for? What a joke.

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R69

Re: @Capita

I worked for them for 4 years on a number of high profile software & infrastructure projects that were all so obviously doomed to failure it was painful - i feel qualified to say that they just dont have any genuine experience or expertise in managing complex (or even simple) software projects so this isnt a suprise.

The bigger questino is for the MOD to answer - can they genuinely say that recruitment was going to cost them £1.3 billion over 10 years...if so that is outrageous.

If you outsource a problem - its still a problem. Businesses need to learn to fix their issues before they hand them over to somebody else...

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Re: Wonderful common sense, wonderful typo...

If you outsource a problem - its still a problem.

Brilliant. It's a pity you can't charge for being quoted on that.

The bigger questino

Perhaps the next particle to be sought by the LHC?

I salute your business sense, and I salute your fingers, but the icons only allow me to offer one beer

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Unhappy

@R69

"The bigger questino is for the MOD to answer - can they genuinely say that recruitment was going to cost them £1.3 billion over 10 years...if so that is outrageous."

Easy.

Like every other MoD (according to the MoD at least) system their requirements are totally unique and completely unsolvable by any sort of off the shelf package.

And then of course there are those 23000 odd procurement bods in Bristol. You've got to wonder how many of them had a hand writing the procurement document

And of course let's not forget the old £140k --> over 10 years ---> huge IT con-sultancy can be "trusted" to have the financial resources to handle a job that's so big.

Stir up this great big steaming pile and serve in large portions to the British taxpayer.

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Re: @Capita @Douglas83

There's probably some rule at work here, just as in court, a jury is not allowed to know of a defendant's previous convictions.

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Blunders

"...has been hamstrung by a series of blunders after Capita was awarded the contract in 2011".

A series of blunders after the first catastrophic blunder; namely letting Crapita anywhere near it.

Have they *ever* brought a project in on time and on budget?

Answers on the back of a blank taxpayers cheque.

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Re: Blunders

You beat me to it.

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Re: Blunders

Capita may preside over a succession of shit-storm projects, but the truth is that Capita frequently deliver in the private sector projects they undertake.

So, why does it go wrong with public projects? No ownership is my bet. Every elected person involved in the project will think that they are the boss, and continually add minor tweaks and changes to the specs. Civil servants ignore the politicos mainly, and will supply their own requirements.

Add enough of these people to any project, and you'll very quickly have scope creep and fail to make any deadline.

It's all cool to rag on Capita and their ilk (lol, "Crapita"), but the contractor actually working on this project is likely underpaid*, couldn't give a fuck whether the requirements are sane or germane, and so just does as he is told. After all, if it goes wrong, they can show the broken requirements, say "not us guv", and do another £50m in fixup work.

Successful projects usually have strong product ownership - someone who knows exactly where to take this thing, and has final say over everything. Unsuccessful projects rarely have strong ownership.

* Yes - even though the company makes a mint out of government work, the contractors they are supplying are probably not - well, not compared to typical consultants.

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Re: Blunders

Got to agree to the above,

what starts as a simple 'can you do us a new website', followed a month or so later with the addition of mail functionality, then a bosses wife's hairdresser mentions adding comments and reviews and a outlet so you can buy from the site, then you need to add analytical's to see how many hits you're getting and we might as well go Google advertising on it to recoup some of the cost, oh and now we need it to link directly to these other websites and data-stores

what do you mean we need more hardware and storage

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Surely if Capita have failed to deliver it madness to send even more money in their direction? Surely its time to put the work back out to tender?

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Or even have an in-house team to do the work and stop out-sourcing.

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Anonymous Coward

I wish the sector I work in

Was as forgiving, not to mention gullible, as government....

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Same old suspects every single damn time..

I'm sorry but IBM, Accenture, Capita G$S , hitachi, EDS etc should be banned from all government contracts ,

jesus we could get better results from using trained monkeys, how they keep getting work , with failure after failure on their books is a national scandal!

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Re: Same old suspects every single damn time..

They keep getting work because they are seen as "safe choices" due to their size and experience (admittedly at fucking everything up that they are contracted to provide). Many of these systems I could have had developed within a year by a small, quality team for a tiny fraction of the price... unfortunately unless you are a big, unwieldy organisation with the aforementioned experience (and directors in the right places), it is impossible to get these contracts.

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Re: Same old suspects every single damn time..

How is it the same list to which you can add PWC keep getting work, which is never:

a) Do the basic job - forget meeting the specifications

b) Arrive on time or on budget

And how when they fail to meet the above can the contracts continually be written that we the Tax payer have to pay for it & pay to get fixed. When in the SME world the customer would just refuse to pay for any of it / demand a refund?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Same old suspects every single damn time..

The government keep awarding contracts to the "safe choices" as they're overdue to get something right. Maybe not this year, but soon.

You wouldn't want to introduce a new supplier and go through another 25+ year learning cycle...

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Re: Same old suspects every single damn time..

Wrong.

Follow the money.

Between 2000-2010, £1,500,000 in Tory donations from Capita.

It's nothing to do with safety, with reliability of an established firm. It's old-boys mutual back-scratching.

This is the case with pretty much all the crappy companies paid millions by the government to do nothing, Atos included.

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Re: Same old suspects every single damn time..

Indeed how many senior players at Capita are ex Govt or Ex MOD.....

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Anonymous Coward

Capita SIMS

Capita also make a program called SIMS used in schools.

The latest update warns that Windows 8 adopters will "encounter difficulties when you first log into SIMS after a SIMS upgrade because the What's New page is displayed automatically and cannot be closed easily. This is caused by Windows Reader being the default program used to open PDF files"

They recommend installing Adobe Reader 9.

How about just disabling the "Whats New" page?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Capita SIMS

SIMS is a clusterfuck of the highest proportions. When I was working with it 5 years ago some parts were still 16 bit software from the stone age covered in sticking plaster to keep it going. SIMS also released patches, but every upgrade would lead to "interesting" outcomes. Intelligent managers would always leave any update at least two weeks, especially around exam time where the system simply had to work.

SIMS development standards however are best summed up in one example.

A selection of developers were in a meeting, and the subject of data entry came up. The developers were shocked and dismayed when they were told they'd have to parse apostrophes in surnames. None had thought that an O'Dwyer or O'Connor would go to a school in the UK...

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Re: Capita SIMS

How about not installing Windows 8?

Seriously though, there are so many problems with SIMS that a faulty What's New page is the least of anyone's worries.

A simple way to remotely log users out so we can install the many patches that have to be installed to fix the errors in each termly release would be a start...

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Re: Capita SIMS

SQL escape character but you'd think a big, well established team would have a library of utility methods to handle this.

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Re: Capita SIMS

But Capita are relative geniuses compared to the fuckwit who programs the Collect web site for School Census data collection, and the system for requesting ULNs

That person obviously decided that every school pupil will have a UK address, forgetting all the boarding schools in the UK (yes, there are a number of state boarding schools, we have 120 students with foriegn addresses), neither the Collect site or the ULN requests will accept an address with a house number or UK format postcode.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Capita SIMS

"SQL escape character but you'd think a big, well established team would have a library of utility methods to handle this."

Yes, but we're talking about SIMS, logic doesn't enter in to it

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Re: Capita SIMS

If they throw a million quid my way I might be willing to license some I made earlier ^^

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Re: Capita SIMS

"SQL escape character but you'd think a big, well established team would have a library of utility methods to handle this."
But someone isn't typing the surname into a SQL query are they?; they're typing it into a form (god I hope!)

What the hell happens when Robert '); DROP TABLE students; joins the school??

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Re: Capita SIMS

That boy must have some really devious parents.

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How much?

I am always amazed at headlines like this - I mean, just HOW do you spend 15 million quid on a computer system? I could have put together a team to do this for a tiny fraction of the price and still have enough to retire on and go and live in the Bahamas.

I wouldn't even know where to start spending that kind of cash - I think I would have to insist all the kit was gold plated with diamond-encrusted chips or something like, just to come close.

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Re: How much?

It does indeed require considerable experience and expertise to be able to spend such exceedingly large sums of money and to make catastrophic mistakes. Many of those involved have spent a long time training for this, climbing the ladder using the Peter Principle (aka, and developed into the Dilbert Principle).

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Re: How much?

It's what happens when you employ an army of bureaucrats on "Quality Assurance" but don't have anyone who actually knows anything.

First we had Defence Standard 05-21 (in the MOD). Then we had ISO 9000 in government generally. The only effect has been to push up costs, with zero effect on software quality. I met MOD people who asked us if we could do a cheap job without all the QA crap.

Only a paranoid mind would of course suspect that this is all a cunning plan by our enemies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

It's actually a lot easier than you think.

If they bring in experienced IT contractors, then the base cost per contractor with overheads added (office space, IT equipment and all the staff management) will be £600-800 per day, and they will book them out to the project for around £1000 per day. So each contractor costs the project ~£20,000 per month, or ~£120,000 per year. Put together a modest team of 8 of these for a year, and you are running close to £1,000,000 just for a small implementation team.

Add to that the project managers, who (being fully accredited for Prince 2 and ITIL 3 et. al. so of course are worth <sarcasm>much more</sarcasm> than your average infrastructure specialist) will be billed to the project at £2,000 per day, and you can see how the costs run away. And that is before you start taking the actual hardware into consideration.

While using their own employees may reduce the costs a bit, most consultancy companies are shedding FTEs for fear of having to pay them when there is no work.

As the consultancy (and the project managers who manage the project) are making money by just having it running, as long as there are no penalties that will sting them, there is no incentive to complete the project on time!

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