Latest MoJ statistics reveal Capita 'improvements' stall
The latest batch of MoJ statistics on the Capita Framework Agreement seem to make less and less sense as time goes by. According to Sec. 3.9 of the National Audit Office report, the MoJ penalised Capita to the tune of £2,200 in respect of May and June 2012. Turn to Table 1 of the MoJ statistics which cover the period February to August 2012, and it lists the total number of assignments which the contractor failed to fulfil in May and June as being 801, which includes Criminal, Civil and Family, and Tribunals.
If one divides £2,200 by 801, that works out to £2.75 per failed assignment. Wow. Of course, the MoJ will argue that not only is Capita stung by this swingeing penalty, it also doesn't get paid for the job, that is to say, the job that wasn't done. What you have to take into account is that whilst Capita doesn't receive payment, neither does it have to pay its linguist, so if one assumes that Capita makes a margin of £10 per hour, the total financial cost to Capita of not sending an interpreter is about £13.
That doesn't seem a lot considering that the consequential losses incurred by the taxpayer is likely to be at least a few hundred pounds. Now, let's take this a little further and consider that Capita will only make their £10/hour margin per assignment if they don't have to pay the linguist any mileage allowance or travelling time. Suppose for example, that in order to fulfil a booking they have to find a linguist that lives 60 miles away, and takes an hour and half each way to get to court. Capita will then end up paying £50 in total, so if the booking lasts for 90 minutes, instead of making a margin of £15, Capita will actually make an overall loss of £35.
What is likely to through the minds of Capita managers when they receive such a booking? Hmmm....let's see....we can send an interpreter and lose £35, or we can not send an interpreter and only lose £13. What would you do if it was your company?
The plot thickens when - during the Public Accounts Committee hearing of 15th October - Martin Jones of MoJ said that '..We are looking, in this contract, at the idea of an iPhone app, so that if you are an interpreter and you are in Birmingham and your case ends at lunchtime because the witnesses have not turned up, you can go on and say, "Where in Birmingham Crown court, Birmingham magistrates court or the police station can I get my next job?..."
Yes Mr Jones, it's a wizard wheeze, but hang on a minute, surely if there are court assignments to be fulfilled in Birmingham, won't these already have a linguist assigned to them? What would be the practical use of this marvellous iPhone app if the linguist knows that all of the assignments are booked up already? Or are we to understand that the MoJ expects that by lunchtime, Capita still hasn't got around to finding linguists for afternoon court booking?
When you gather together all the pieces of this jigsaw, does it not suggest that Capita is deliberately not assigning bookings to linguists until the last minute, in the hope that they minimise travel costs by not booking a distant linguist until they have no other option? Perhaps, Capita books multiple consecutive assignments for a linguist based on estimated completion times, for the same reason. This would certainly account for the numerous instances of linguists turning up late, or leaving court before the proceedings are finished. Is this why the iPhone app is useful to Capita, so they can re-direct linguists to those bookings for which their interpreter didn't turn up?
Another thing that the latest MoJ statistics show is that the fulfilment rate has pretty much levelled off at 95%, and indeed during the PAC hearing the MoJ seemed keen to cite this figure as a measure of success, regardless of the contract KPI to achieve better than 98%. It's as though 95% is the new 98%. In the real world, a success rate of 95% would be properly viewed as a 5% failure rate.
When I order 1000 steering wheels per week for my production line, that's exactly what I would expect to receive. Any supplier that said they will try and send me 1000 per week, but would be satisfied if they managed 980 per week is almost certain not going to win the contract, if only because they demonstrate a lack of ambition and a failure to grasp the meaning of quality.
If I was feeling generous and gave them the contract anyway, they would certainly not keep it for long if they only managed 950 per week. After all, to them it's just a steering wheel. To me, as the customer, each failure represents one more unfinished vehicle that cannot be sold.