Letter to Public Accounts Committee regarding cost of Interpretation Project
Dear Committee Members,
In view of your on-going inquiry into the court interpreting contract between the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and ALS, now trading as Capita Translation and Interpreting, I am writing to bring the following information to your attention.
In February this year I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request about the total cost to date of the Interpretation Project at the MoJ. My request was refused due to the costs required to answer it. A subsequent complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) resulted in the ICO’s order for the MoJ to advise me on how to refine my request so it falls within the costs limit. I followed the MoJ’s advice only to get another refusal from them citing the same costs limit.
It clearly shows to me that the MoJ is being deliberately obstructive and intentionally refuses to disclose this information, which is very much in the public interest following a completely shambolic situation we have been witnessing since the Interpretation Project gave the interpreting contract the go-ahead on January 30th 2012.
The MoJ’s initial response to the ICO brought this incredible information to light (the ICO’s decision notice with these details is attached): “the MoJ stated that there was no separate budget for this project. Instead this project was funded from a number of different budgets.” I find it quite staggering that a government department has no separate budget for a small project, which, I understand, was set up for a specific purpose. It also shows total lack of responsibility before the public.
Furthermore, in their latest response refusing to answer my request, the MoJ explained: “we would be required to contact a number of offices across the MoJ estate to obtain these details. The reason for doing so is because majority of the personnel involved in working on the Project worked on it for a short period of time as well as working continuously in other roles alongside their participation in the project. As a result, complying with this request would require a search of an email archive of several thousand emails to determine the various individuals involved, and the time they contributed to this project.”
To me this shows a completely disorganised way of running the project with very predictable circumstances which we continue seeing. I believe such practices should be stopped as they are extremely damaging for the public purse while the MoJ claims it collects no centralised information on running the project and therefore cannot be held fully accountable. I can only make an educated estimate that since its set-up the Interpretation Project has run into a figure close to a million pounds, if we were to include not just salaries, but all the operational and employment costs too.
I hope you will take this information into account when considering your final report following your investigation and may I take this opportunity to thank you for your scrutinising approach.