Capita chief executive officer Paul Pindar says a new independent report gives the outsourcing giant “a pretty clean bill of health” over its outsourced recruitment programme for the British Army.
Since Capita took over the contract earlier this year, attendance at selection events and interviews have fallen, with some applicants reportedly getting lost in the system. Pindar puts these issues down to problems with the IT system with which it should have been provided.
“I wouldn’t use the word exonerated but I would say Capita has been given a pretty clean bill of health in the contribution we have made,” Pindar says of the independent report he says he will provide to MPs.
Pindar was responding to questions from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday afternoon (20 November) in a session ‘The delivery of public services by private contractors’, with fellow outsourcers Atos, G4S and Serco.
The session, which can be viewed online (the segment about Army recruitment coming at 16:35), comes after a National Audit Office report on the broader issue earlier this year.
The Capita boss, who announced earlier this week he is to step down, told the PAC: “I’m not doing this to apportion blame, we were to be provided with a working IT system.” Pindar added that this “had not actually been delivered” at the point the project started.
PAC member Richard Bacon responded: “It does sound like the client side has some answering to do.” While spokespeople said that the issue of the IT system had been dealt with publicly already, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was not immediately able to provide a response to this suggestion.
Pindar came in for public criticism overnight for his assertion that it is more difficult to recruit because of “the disadvantage of not having any wars on”, when the UK has thousands of troops in Afghanistan.
He also said that it “is a far harder task to recruit into the army when the economy is recovering” – something he was not challenged on by MPs.
In a statement last month, Capita and the MoD said that the incorrect perception that the Army is not recruiting has inevitably damaged applicant levels.
Pindar also noted that the Army recruitment costs have now dropped from £100m to under £50m a year. However, when Margaret Hodge, MP and chair of PAC, asked him if it was true that 1,000 soldiers who should have since been relieved of recruiting duties and re-deployed elsewhere have indeed been freed up, Pindar said that he did not know, but said the figure was not as high as 1,000.