Letter to Public Accounts Committee
I have previously engaged in correspondence with the committee regarding the ongoing failures of this contract. One of the fundamental requirements of the original contract was that the interpreters recruited by the contract (Capita Translating and Interpreting, formerly Applied Language Solutions) were to be assessed by an independent party. This was to ensure that the interpreters had the necessary competence for the skill tier level into which they were to be placed.
The investigation by the National Audit Office and subsequent hearings by the committee revealed that this assessment process was not being carried out by the contractor, and that the collaboration with Middlesex University had collapsed before the contract had gone live. During the committee hearings, assurances were given to the committee by both the contractor and the Ministry of Justice that an alternative assessment process would be implemented. Despite these assurances, no such process has yet been devised, let alone put in place. At the hearing of January 27th 2014, Sir Peter Handcock stated that a contract had been placed with an independent consultant to consider the whole question of what interpreting qualifications were appropriate for the contract, and how competence was to be assessed, and further, that this would be completed ‘by the end of the year’, by which it was assumed the end of the financial year i.e. end of March 2014.
The contract was given to Matrix Solutions, and during March 2014, an on-line survey was sent out to interpreters to gauge their views on the experience and qualifications required for interpreting in the justice environment. The survey had to be returned by April 11th. Since that time, nothing has been heard by the interpreting community as to the conclusions and recommendations of the Matrix investigation, or even whether such a report has been completed and submitted to the MoJ.
The general view held by qualified interpreters that this is a time-wasting exercise by the MoJ, and placing a contract with Matrix Solutions was simply a measure to placate the Public Accounts and Justice Select committees, by giving the impression that something was being done. In reality, the MoJ has no intention of requiring Capita to tighten up the process of recruiting and deploying interpreters, because it is only by being able to use unqualified and inexperienced linguists (interpreter is not the correct description) that Capita is able to get anywhere near the fulfilment rates required by the contract. Sir Peter Handcock appears to view his appearances before the committee like a visit to the dentist. An hour of uncomfortable squirming in a chair, but safe in the knowledge that it’s only once a year.
I appreciate that Parliament is about to rise for the summer recess, but I respectfully ask that the Committee seeks an urgent response from the MoJ as to the conclusions of the investigation commissioned from Matrix Solutions, and a timescale for implementation. After all, taxpayers’ money has been spent on commissioning this investigation, and it is only fair that the MoJ accounts for what has been achieved.