Morning Star: Accounts committee slams court interpreter chaos
Senior MPs revealed the full scandal of the government's court interpreter sell-off yesterday, slamming Ministry of Justice officials for roping in a firm with only a quarter of the staff needed and then fining them just £2,200.
The public accounts committee called it "an object lesson in how not to contract out a public service."
MPs said they had heard of "risible levels of penalties and low expectations," allowing dismal failures on the lucrative £42m contract handed to ALS Interpreters and Capita.
ALS had promised 1,200 agency workers to interpret for courts and police forces across Britain.
But professional interpreters boycotted the firm after it rejected a national pay bargain and offered worse wages and working conditions.
It meant ALS had just 280 staff on hand when it officially started on the contract last February.
And its security and background checks were so lax that one interpreter was able to register their dog.
The interpreters ALS supplied were often poor. In April a trial collapsed after an interpreter mistranslated "beaten" as "bitten" - then covered up their mistake for three days.
Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said it had caused "total chaos," with trials delayed, postponed and abandoned and defendants kept on remand.
Unite regional officer Andrew Murray, who works with the National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators, told the Morning Star the boycott was still under way.
Mr Murray said he had not yet seen the report but Unite and Professional Interpreters for Justice wanted the contract thrown out entirely.
"We don't think the current structure is fit for purpose," he said.