back to article Spending watchdog points finger at Capita for 1,300 shortfall in British Army rookies

The British Army has missed its recruitment targets by between 21 and 45 per cent each year since 2013 because of a botched project with Capita, according to a damning report released today. A core part of the British Army Recruiting Partnering Project was the creation of a new system for online recruitment, but this was beset …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Crapita...

    Who'da thought it?

    1. Credas Silver badge

      Re: Crapita...

      Capita + stunningly incompetent contracting by the customer = epically expensive failure. Why does government have to experience this so many times, and still not learn?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why does government have to experience this so many times, and still not learn?

        because the revolving door policy in public sector means if you screw one project up you'll just get shuffled off to another area who won't realise what a talentless moron you are until you've screwed up again and are set to be bumped on once more.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I assume that there's no possibility that Capita have ever donated to any political party ...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      I assumed they were run directly from a political party in Moscow

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        that explains a few things.

  3. ISYS
    FAIL

    No right to the IT system at the end of the contract?

    Capita may own the IT infrastructure etc but I bet they don't have as many weapons as the Army.

    I suggest they hand it all over before somebody gets hurt.

    1. FlamingDeath Bronze badge
      Big Brother

      Re: No right to the IT system at the end of the contract?

      "Capita may own the IT infrastructure etc but I bet they don't have as many weapons as the Army. I suggest they hand it all over before somebody gets hurt"

      I don't think you understand the military / corporation relationship structure

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: No right to the IT system at the end of the contract?

        Of course not. Senior MoD officials and Offices ned lucrative jobs/directorships when they retire. Mines the public coated being robbed.

  4. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Flame

    No one knows if recruitment system will be usable once contract ends in 2022

    Pretty sure it's unusable now.

  5. FlamingDeath Bronze badge
    WTF?

    TBF...

    The MOD does a great job of dissuading potential recruits already

    The whole social contract needs rewriting, the treatment of veterans and their families is nothing short of disgusting, to add to this, the MOD enjoys Crown Immunity, but not its e̶m̶p̶l̶o̶y̶e̶e̶s soldiers

    1. ISYS

      Re: TBF...

      One of the challenges the MOD has is that in the 60s, 70s, 80s and most of the 90s joining the military was a nice way of getting a career with foreign travel and a good trade qualification at the end.

      THEN IT GOT REAL.

      Since then, there has been a very high chance you will actually get involved in serious action.

      1. FlamingDeath Bronze badge

        Re: TBF...

        "THEN IT GOT REAL"

        While that may be a cause and is worth consideration, I suspect the, (how do I put this?) "Reasons given, the pretext for wars, is increasingly being questioned, and also the reasons I gave earlier, awful treatment.

        Those SAS soldiers that died of heat exhaustion, nobody went to prison for that, it was a HSE jurisdiction

        https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sas-soldiers-brecon-beacons-deaths-reservists-selection-special-forces-bulford-a8542706.html

        That is wrong

        The soldier that died of colon cancer, part of his job was cleaning the tanks, tanks fire depleted uranium shells. That too was a HSE jurisdiction

        https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/6169481/Soldiers-cancer-linked-to-Gulf-War-inquest.html

        That is wrong

        I could go on and on about this single subject for eternity. THAT is how awful the MOD are

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: TBF...

        >in the 60s, 70s, 80s and most of the 90s .... THEN IT GOT REAL

        In the 60s, 70s, 80s etc it was a good way of getting your legs blown off in Belfast

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: TBF...

          In the 60s, 70s, 80s etc it was a good way of getting your legs blown off in Belfast

          Troubles didn't kick off until '69

      3. nematoad Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: TBF...

        ...in the 60s, 70s, 80s and most of the 90s joining the military was a nice way of getting a career with foreign travel and a good trade qualification at the end."

        I was a soldier in the 60s and 70s. There was always the chance that the balloon might go up and we would be in action. That is part of the deal when you join the army. Oh and unless you have forgotten or are too young to remember there was that nasty business in the north of Ireland which claimed the lives of a lot of service personnel as well as that other trouble in the Falklands which also led to a lot of people not coming home.

        So no, it wasn't just about a good way to learn a trade and see the world.

        1. SolidSquid

          Re: TBF...

          I think what he meant was that the *public perception* of joining the army (and how it was often framed by recruitment organisations) was that it was a good way to see the world and expand your resume, down playing any risks involved. Given the increased awareness of actual conditions soldiers have had to put up with (and how easy it is to share that information online without the government being able to issue a d-notice to keep it hush hush), that's a much harder sell because it's harder to convince people that's the case

          1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: TBF...

            "how it was often framed by recruitment organisations"

            I believe one of the early maxims you learn in life is "the recruiting sergeant lied" :)

            1. jfm

              Re: TBF...

              Billy Connolly (who was with 15 PARA for a while) summed this up well in this song, "Sergeant, Where's Mine".

        2. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: TBF...

          'I was a soldier in the 60s and 70s. There was always the chance that the balloon might go up and we would be in action.'

          There have only been two years since 1945 when there hasn't been a UK death in combat. 1968 and oddly 2016.

          https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2016/07/06/british-military-deaths

      4. CraPo

        Re: TBF...

        Not today ISYS, not today

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TBF...

        The Falklands were quite real, as was Ulster.

      6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: TBF...

        the MOD has is that in the 60s, 70s, 80s

        Sure. The Warsaw pact was just a figment of my imagination while growing up. Please carry on and share what you are smoking. While smoking cool stuff is not a crime, being an antisocial twit and not sharing is.

        THEN IT GOT REAL.

        It never stopped being real for a single minute after WW2 ended. The location changed, the proxies changed, but the constant lukewarm war continued day and night.

        It has not changed since then either. The sole difference is that the Russians have now disposed of the proxies (in most cases) and intervene directly. Same goes for the west and NATO.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TBF...

        When I was soldiering in the 60s and 70s I was only involved in four of Britain's small wars, plenty of travel from one to another and I suppose that my shooting skills improved.

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TBF...

        Pretty sure everyone who joined up in the swinging sixties expected the Third Shock Army to come pouring through the Fulda Gap any minute, was that “real” enough?

    2. Herring`

      Re: TBF...

      The whole social contract needs rewriting, the treatment of veterans and their families is nothing short of disgusting,

      When Help for Heroes got big, a lot of people were "Oh, isn't this inspiring. Isn't it great!" I don't consider it "great" that injured servicepeople are reliant on charity. Look at the number of ex-soldiers who end up homeless and/or with mental health issues. This isn't "great". If we can pay to send the military into combat, then we'd better be paying for the consequences of them too.

      Back on the subject of the article, Private Eye has been covering this for years. Why governments keep doing the same thing - handing over public jobs to the same big companies who have no expertise and a shite track record - I really don't know.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: TBF...

        'Back on the subject of the article, Private Eye has been covering this for years. Why governments keep doing the same thing - handing over public jobs to the same big companies who have no expertise and a shite track record - I really don't know.

        I have this vague feeling that when awarding public contracts you can't take past performance into account. I'm trying to remember where I read that, certainly on the one occasion I got to score two competing contracts there was no section for taking it into consideration.

        1. John McCallum

          Re: TBF...

          Re past performance of rip-off contractors and public money you are correct and this is partly why the Edinburgh tram system was so late and so expensive the main contractor bid low so as to get it and then all but downed tools so as to screw the council for more money part way through the project.

        2. Spazturtle Silver badge

          Re: TBF...

          "I have this vague feeling that when awarding public contracts you can't take past performance into account. I'm trying to remember where I read that, certainly on the one occasion I got to score two competing contracts there was no section for taking it into consideration."

          EU competition rules mean that the government's of member states can't take bidders past performance into consideration when selecting who wins.

      2. We're with Steve

        Re: TBF...

        Because it is easier to milk one cow than a thousand mice. How are you going to get a kickback if you employ the people direct or many small business? Greed is lazy.

      3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: TBF...

        "Why governments keep doing the same thing - handing over public jobs to the same big companies who have no expertise and a shite track record - I really don't know."

        Your cynicism level is obviously depleted. You need to read Private Eye for a bit till the depression becomes too much.

      4. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: TBF...

        - handing over public jobs to the same big companies who have no expertise and a shite track record - I really don't know.

        Because there's no one left. The big guys either sucked up the little competent ones or bankrupted them. Look at other industries and you see the same thing happening.

  6. big_D Silver badge

    How?

    Having worked on bespoke web systems for shops, which could cope with transactions running into the hundreds per second for high 5 to low 6 figure development fees, how on earth can you spaff 130 million up the wall on a system designed for such relatively low throughput?

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: How?

      It takes a lot of skill and dedication to be able to build an efficent system capable of coping with 100s of transactions a second

      Crapita dont have that, so thats why they charge so much

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: How?

        It takes a lot of skill and dedication to be able to bill a couple of 100 million for a system incapable of coping with 100s of transactions/s

    2. Laura Kerr
      Flame

      Re: How?

      Gubbmint IT projects have their own playbook, and it's almost the direct opposite of how sane development works. In the real world, you work out what the website has to do, make the best estimates of throughput you can, add in some contingency and ensure the architecture is scalable, design the interfaces for the payment, warehousing and transport systems, implement a decent security layer and separation of concerns and so on. Then, with a fairly comprehensive set of requirements, off you go.

      Now in gubbmint, first of all, a minister bumps their gums in public about how the new shiny will go live on date X. Just to emphasise the importance, they do so in the House of Commons, which means it's recorded in Hansard. Then they pass it on to their minions, who giggle 'bananaaaa' and set up a Senior Manglement Team, a Steering Committee, a Stakeholder Forum, a Supplier Management Review Group and a Procurement Executive. This all takes time to put together - must get this right, old boy, as it's a Ministerial commitment, don't y'know - so some time is taken up with assigning people, synchronising diaries and debating terms of reference for each group. Then it goes up to the Minister for approval. Once that's been obtained The Plan is assembled using the Great Hammer of Microsoft Project.

      Next step is to Gather All Ye Requirements. As all stakeholders must be consulted, a few months are burnedspent on workshops that rapidly turn into either meandering debates or turf wars. Technology allows these to be done via con-calls so that half the attendees dial in, go on mute and play on Facebook, while half the rest are mumblers who can't express themselves clearly.

      With the workshops concluded, the next step is to assemble a set of requirements that make the Chequers Brexit plan look like a model of clarity. But hey, there are the requirements, so they're cut 'n' pasted into a tender document. In order a provide full transparency, a different font is used, and redacted text is included.

      Off they go to tender and a couple of months later, a shortlist of bidders is invited to present their solutions. While all les grandes fromages are being seduced by the glittering PowerPoint, the minion assigned to monitor The Plan opens it one morning and cries "bananaaa!" in horror as the dates all turn red. Off they go to raise the alarm. Les grandes fromages yell at the minion for speaking truth to power and then convey an emergency meeting to review the situation. As it's so urgent, people are flown in business-class from all over the country. A locked-doors session then ensues.

      GF1: How did we get to this point?

      GF2: It's just not acceptable.

      Minion: We fixed the end date and we've used up a lot of time in requirements gathering.

      GF3: Why didn't you tell us before now? For God's sake.

      Minion: I did. You all get highlight reports each week.

      GF1: Oh, is that what they were. Well, really. You should have escalated it.

      GF2: Absolutely. It's just not acceptable.

      Minion: I did. You asked me to refer it to the Steering Committee.

      GF3: They haven't met for some time. Pressures of other work, it seems.

      Minion: Nobody told me that.

      GF1: Well, what are we going to do? Have you got any bright ideas?

      GF2. You'd better come up with something. It's just not acceptable.

      Minion: We might be able to deliver a Minimum Viable Product if we cut a few corners.

      GF3: What on earth is a Minimum Viable Product?

      Minion: It's usually shortened to MVP.

      GF1: Oh, MVP. Well, why didn't you say so? Best get on with it then.

      GF2: Agreed. The current situation is just not acceptable.

      Minion: Bananaaa!

      GF3: OK, off you go then.

      The meeting breaks up and eventually an MVP is delivered six months late by a DevOps team using Agile methodology. However, as all the budget's been used up, the MVP becomes the end product.

      That's how you piss 350 million up the wall. Those stakeholder workshops need attendees and options papers don't write themselves. But hey, why should the GFs care? They're sitting pretty under the shelter of the magic money tree.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: How?

        sad but true. most of our tax money must be just getting pissed away

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: How?

        I have been that minion!!!!!

      3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: How?

        My dear lady, it sounds like you've been Sir Humphry's secretary.

        1. Laura Kerr

          Re: How?

          "My dear lady, it sounds like you've been Sir Humphry's secretary."

          You might say that. I couldn't possibly comment.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: How?

        @Laura Kerr

        The alternative is that something basic gets put together and then the real requirements dribble in after go-live. Quite likely at least some of these prove to be incompatible with the way the now live system works.

        1. Laura Kerr

          Re: How?

          @ Doctor Syntax

          Yup. And for bonus points, a lot of those requirements themselves have a high degree of mutual incompatibility. That means a Decision Has To Be Made so les grandes fromages hastily reconvene. This time, without the minion present, the atmosphere is a little more confrontational:

          GF1: I want these changes to go in asap.

          GF2: These ones have a higher degree of business need.

          GF3: This third lot also needs to go in. And they aren't compatible with the first lot.

          GF1: I want these in immediately. I've promised the Minister.

          GF2: Hey, hang on. These ones are important, too.

          GF3. I want doesn't get.

          GF1: Do you know who I am?

          GF2: I want these changes implemented immediately. If that doesn't happen, I'll scream and scream and scream until I'm sick.

          GF3: Yeah, well my dad's bigger than your dad.

          ..etc. Eventually the requirements backed by the loudest shouter are somehow squeezed on top of the live system. No regression tests can be done, as testing was one of the first corners to be cut, so a few happy path scenarios are run and the most glaring faults hastily corrected. The Go / No Go meeting spends most of its allotted time whittling down the remaining list of bugs until the defect mask's met.

          It goes live, falls over and is plastered with hot fixes until it only needs rebooting once a day.

          Then rinse, squabble and repeat until end of contract.

  7. David Lewis 2
    Facepalm

    They're in good company!

    Neither the Army nor Capita tested the changes...

    Well if it works for Microsoft & Windows 10. Oh wait ...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get fell in you 'orrible lot...

    > If the system isn't suitable for modification, the Army will have to buy or develop a new one.

    I can guarantee it isn't. I have no involvement with the system whatsoever; and I know nothing about Army recruitment. But it's Capita - so I can guarantee it won't be able to be modified for less than starting again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get fell in you 'orrible lot...

      I have no involvement with the system whatsoever; and I know nothing about Army recruitment.

      Have you considered sending your CV to Capita? Based on what you've said here, you sound just like the sort of fellow they'd employ to be in charge of this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Get fell in you 'orrible lot...

        > Have you considered sending your CV to Capita? Based on what you've said here, you sound just like the sort of fellow they'd employ to be in charge of this.

        Why thank-you. I have no project management experience either so it sounds like I'm ideal.

  9. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    Is there not an alternative explanation ?

    That people just don't want to be soldiers ?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Is there not an alternative explanation ?

      Sure - but with "austerity" in full flood, if you are young then joining the Army is a good income for a while so long as you can avoid shooting yourself in the back after an argument in the barracks.

    2. devTrail

      Re: Is there not an alternative explanation ?

      That may explain the fall in the recruitment numbers, but it does not explain the cost. It does not explain contractual choices like lack of access to the source code for 18 months and by consequence lack of evaluation of code quality, maintainability and reusability.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is there not an alternative explanation ?

      "people just don't want to be soldiers"

      Private Eye (again!) had the story of the army officer who was getting fed up with referring people came up to him in the street to Crapita and nothing coming of it. He started collecting names and details and tried to pass them up the chain. When Crapita found out he was reprimanded and the details confiscated and, no change here, resulted in just about zero new recruits

  10. Steve 114

    Get Real

    How hard can it be to get young people to signup online for exacting bootcamps, conducted for free by serving military, with 'Start Monday' awards for anyone who can make the grade and impress the experienced instructors?. Then 4 months basic to do the weeding, before they get an (assisted) choice of Regiment. Cybersqaddies could have a different, but just as arduous, track.

  11. Alex Read

    No one knows if recruitment system will be usable once contract ends in 2022...

    Employee contract writers and archictects with a proven track record... (a proven good one) & base them on performance-related wages with no automatic golden parachutes or peerages.

    Get rid of the huge parasite companies like Crapita & divide the services/modules/areas to different small companies, with penalties and no get out clause massive payments.

    1. devTrail

      Get rid of the huge parasite companies like Crapita

      I don't think it would be enough. If I understood correctly this one seems a big waterfall project without an independent evaluation of code quality. If the MOD is willing to accept this kind of terms even for custom made software it means that it will always get crappy deliveries whoever is the developer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm in the wrong business....

    Looks like I can bid for any old Govt contract, ensure that negations last forever to the point where the requirements aren't relevant any more, deliver any old shite, and walk away with used £50s in my pocket, with no repercussions, if I'm Capita.

    Therefore, may I make a suggestion: Can we all club together to form Acme Contractors.... By this time next year, I'll have a swiss bank account and be living in Antigua.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: I'm in the wrong business....

      "Therefore, may I make a suggestion: Can we all club together to form Acme Contractors"

      Well, the way things are going the MoD may indeed be needing a supply of anvils to drop on the enemy, because we'll just about be able to take on a few roadrunners.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is everyone missing the point?

    The government has clearly decided to reduce the MOD budget, what better way than pay someone to dissuade everyone from joining. All those establishment costs, salaries and training costs that are saved exceed the cost of the software provided by Capita. End result is a reduction in spending.

  14. The Pi Man

    Next time?

    You’re all being very mean to Capita. I mean surely, maybe they’ll do a good job of something if we give them enough chances?

    1. A.P. Veening

      Re: Next time?

      "surely, maybe they’ll do a good job of something if we give them enough chances"

      You are on to a certainty, as long as "something" includes "screwing up imperially", they got that down to an art.

      NB: I am completely aware the normal expression is "screwing up royally", but they raised it to the next level.

  15. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    Had a look.

    Even with all the background bollocks, no language or content in depth. Being kind and generous, with expensive nights out it’s still £112m of rubbish. #160kpermonth #theoldgalatIBM #jobboard

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: Had a look.

      Just ask for £400m back. I’ll provide the report for free with a 5% recovery fee.

      1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

        Re: Had a look.

        Seriously. With that sort of money, you can have a bunch of reusable rockets and space rangers. #opensource

        1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

          Re: Had a look.

          #projecttreeclimber

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Low tech solution

    For £113M, the MoD could have set up a department of 200 people for 10 years to process everything manually, and actually still had it work more effectively than what Crapita have achieved. At least then they'd be employing people in the UK who pay tax and spend money in our economy, rather than giving the money to Crapita who doubtless piss half of it up the wall to execs who hold it offshore, and spend the rest on shit developer-drones from the subcontinent.

    One thing I'd really love to see if/when we leave the EU is a fundamental shift in taxpayer-funded procurement to require that as much work as humanly possible is done onshore by UK taxpayers, and that all corporate accounting is open-book and a maximum acceptable profit margin is set. Pissing billions of pounds out of our economy year-in, year-out, for sod-all gain is pure criminality on the part of our Lords and Masters.

    1. NeilPost

      Re: Low tech solution

      ROFLMAO

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low tech solution

      My information tell me that what the RAF, RN, RM and RFA have resorted to doing in the most part. Entering in the successful into system for transfer to pay system.

      The contract was so supplying IT system for two of three servers and outsourcing army recruiting.

    3. fajensen Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Low tech solution

      department of 200 people for 10 years to process everything manually,

      But then it wouldn't be Digital and Digital it must be!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low tech solution

        They’ve got fingers haven’t they?

  17. Cuddles Silver badge

    That's not how penalties work

    "The cost of the 10-year Capita contract rose from £495m to £677m partly because of the automated online recruitment platform, which, when combined with costs for keeping the legacy system running longer than planned, cost the Army £113m.

    As a result of the missed recruitment targets over the years, the Army shaved some 6 per cent off Capita's contract payments, applying financial service credit deductions of £26m."

    Not counting the extra costs to the army, that looks like Crapita got paid an extra £69m. After applying penalties, that means they were paid about 10% more than the original contract price. So of course this nonsense keeps happening. Supply a broken system several years late, and the only "penalty" you get is a hefty pay rise.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why in the blue blazes isn't the contract written in the following way.

    "The system costs us X Million to run per year, we will pay you X-10% a year to run the system. If you can run it cheaper but have the same results you can keep the difference"

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My blood level in the coffee system is probably too high

    I am going to ask a very stupid question.

    How difficult can it be enlist grunts for the drill sergeant to filter out then ones that can from the ones that can't?

    It is the army we are talking about, not navy or RAF after all...

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