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National Audit Office Report on the MoJ’s Interpreting Contract

There was a hearing by the Public Accounts Committee on Monday 15th October following the recent publication of a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the Ministry of Justice’s contract for interpreting and translation which was damning. Firstly comments on the NAO report dated 10th September.
Spoken language interpreters have done an impressive job in collecting a dossier of evidence to present to the NAO and the Justice Select Committee, whose hearing is due on 23rd October.
The NAO has done its own research into the contract and thought the failings in the contract were apparent. Those in the know from the reality on the ground, know it is much worse than the already awful picture portrayed by the NAO’s report.
Other have commented on the report already. Here are some more including links to other reports:
It is stated that on the 22nd Feb the MoJ threatened to rescind the contract (a mere 22 days into it). Why it was allowed to continue is a mystery. The mayhem continues and this includes BSL with no interpreters provided, bookings at short notice and a multitude of agencies now being used to fill the contract. ALS/Capita have continued to throw money at it including having to pay wasted cost orders issued by judges. Those fines do not include the obvious costs of having to haul your Barristers in front of a bench quite regularly. Do not think wasted costs have stopped. They continue.
The report quotes (section 3.8) that interpreters had a pay drop of 8%. This rather modest figure has been checked and recalculated. It’s not true. If it were 8% why would linguists have been travelling the country accepting assignments just to make a profit on the travel? Klasiena Slaney has worked out the figure is actually in the region of a 60-80% drop leaving interpreters earning below the minimum wage.
Stats of 98% fulfilled bookings had been quoted for ‘some days’. This begs the questions: filled with what kind of quality of interpreter when only 13%, some 300 NRPSIs are working for this contract (3.18). The MoJ say ALS are currently filling 95% of bookings. The overall 98% target seems to have been forgotten by the MoJ. It could be claiming service credits worth thousands but is not because it is not holding the contractors to account.
A particular favourite was section 3.12 – payments for linguists could be entered on the portal by the linguists themselves. Considering this was allowed by people employed without CRB checks, coupled with reports of ex-criminals working as interpreters to help get their partners-in-crime let off, it is a serious matter.
ALS/Capita now says it can not assess some languages as set out in the contract, section 3.16. The interpreting organisations did forewarn the MoJ.
Overall apart from these findings, the NAO report appears to still support the contract. It states (2.17) that Capita’s review in July of ALS shows that there is now less risk. That is a given. It could not be any worse than it was.
The report excuses the MoJ: they just were not aware of how interpreting was arranged and the true costs involved. Indeed. There should have been proper research done before awarding a national contract on the basis of guesstimates to a relatively small company.
At the end of the day the MoJ were given a report stating they should award a contract to ALS of no more than £1 million as this posed a risk. The MoJ wanted to award them a contract worth £42 million. The NAO criticises the MoJ for a lack of due diligence on this point. It is quite clearly outsourcing gone mad. Even thatcher wouldn’t have done that.
For further analysis of the NAO report see the excellent and often quoted LinguistLounge.org.

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