Framework Fantasies: availability of all languages within a 25 mile radius
One of the greatly appealing promises ALS made to the Ministry of Justice when the agency was bidding for the interpreting contract was their ability to supply interpreters in all languages within a 25 mile radius. This concept is so warped in itself, it’s hard to believe someone actually fell for it. How can you possibly expect any company, big or small, to meet demand by providing local interpreters in all languages in all areas, regardless of whether it’s a big multicultural city or a small remote county? Yet, in their proposal Applied Language Solutions state: “We do not foresee a difficulty in this [… (to be continued)]” and the MoJ swallows the bait.
Now let us look at the information we are getting from ALS linguists we talk to. They say they do not take on local jobs. They take those assignments which are further away to clock up the travelling time and some mileage which are now partially paid for. Local jobs for local people? Exactly the opposite. So much for the statement ALS make on Page 143 of the Framework Agreement: “We will use our geo location software to find the nearest available interpreter” and brag about their Geographic location software further on Page 147: “We have developed our own geo location software which shows Service Delivery Managers the whereabouts of interpreters within a specified area, allowing the closest and most appropriate interpreter to be assigned to a job.”
Yet, we hear more revealing truths about ALS linguists’ travelling habits, and all from these linguists themselves. Apparently, they tend to use their cars as taxis and offer discounted trips to places they go to. Are you thinking what I am thinking? One word springs to mind: scam?
Naturally, the tax-payer would be interested to know who pays for all these long journeys ALS contractors have to make while providing the new court interpreting service to the government. Newspapers covered the fact of new interpreters travelling hundreds of miles so it no longer comes as a surprise, however, the question about the ultimate payer remains. To end the unfinished quote above from ALS’s proposal, they say “[… (continued)] as we do not charge for travel even if we send an interpreter from further away.”
Indeed, on Page 99 the FWA says the MoJ is required to monitor the Contractor’s performance against Key Performance Indicators, one of which is evidence that availability of all languages came from within a 25 mile radius - 95%. And on Page 136 ALS pledge: “We make no charge to collaborative partners for travel time or expenses. Service Delivery Managers will use our geo-coding software to locate the closest available interpreter with the right skills and experience for the assignment. If a local interpreter is not available, we will source a linguist from further afield but Applied Language Solutions will cover any additional costs. If travelling more than 10 miles to the assignment, ALS will contribute towards the travel expenses in certain circumstances but, of course, this will never be recharged to the Authority or collaborative partner.”
It would be interesting to know if this is indeed the case, and if the MoJ is checking the bill. If all is above-board, how many thousands of pounds a week is Capita losing by propping up ALS thanks to their wonderful job matching system?
And why is the MoJ failing to monitor FWA Key Performance Indicators?