The great MoJ-Capita love-in
Why is the MoJ so keen to be nice to Capita? What I would give to have been a fly on the wall at the meetings between MoJ and ALS during the contract negotiations, but as I wasn’t, a little imagination is required. Picture the scene. An office in Whitehall with a long walnut table, along one side sit the Three Stooges, across from them sit Gavin and his chums.
Gavin: “I’m very happy to sign-off on this contract, but if you want to make the £15 million annual savings you’ve asked for, I need your assurance that ALS won’t be subject to any penalties in the unlikely event there are some assignments we can’t fulfil”.
Beasley: “I’m not certain we can agree to that, I have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure you deliver on this contract. What you’re asking for is a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ arrangement. That simply won’t do”.
Gavin: “Yeah, yeah, all right luv, I understand that….how about a compromise? I’ll agree to a clause that means we get penalised, and you agree that the penalty will be a nominal amount, that way, everybody’s happy”.
Handcock: “I’m sure we can work something out. Jones, what’s it likely to cost us if a trial is adjourned?”
Jones (looking up from his sodoku): “Huh….say again?”
Handcock: “An adjourned trial…what’s the cost to the taxpayer?”
Jones: “Oh…errrr….I don’t have the exact figures with me. £30 or £40, something like that?”
Gavin: “See, it’s not like we’re talking big numbers, so why not fine me….I dunno….maybe £3 every time one of my linguists doesn’t turn up? C’mon guys, let’s not fall out over something that’s never going to happen. We should all be planning for success, whaddya say?”
Handcock: “Hmmm, yes, that’s the spirit. ‘Planning for success’, I like the sound of that. Write that down Jones, that’s a jolly useful phrase to keep up my sleeve”.
Joking apart, the PAC had to remind our Sir Humphries that their jobs are to protect the interests of the taxpayer, whose hard-earned cash has been placed in their custody. So what if Capita has had to spend another £3.5 million trying to put sticking plaster on the mess that ALS left behind? Whether it is £3.5 million or £35 million is of absolutely no concern to the MoJ. That’s Capita’s hard luck for not doing enough due diligence when it decided to buy ALS.
Given that the MoJ has abrogated its responsibilities to manage the FWA contract, it looks like it’s up the courts to look after the interests of the taxpayer by clobbering Capita for wasted costs orders at each and every opportunity. Judges need to stop being lenient, and ignore the oh-it’s-not-our-fault, we’re-just-a-booking-agency, we’re-not-responsible-for-the-actions-of-individuals.
Capita is the contractor, the linguists are sub-contractors, it’s very clear. If Capita suffers a financial penalty as a result of the actions of a sub-contractor, then Capita is welcome to try and recover those losses from the sub-contractor. That is a matter between those two parties, and nothing to do with MoJ. If Capita suffers losses because it chooses to employ linguists that are incompetent and unreliable, it has no-one to blame but itself.
There is a snippet of information from the MoJ web-site which readers of this forum may find of interest. Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive of HMCTS, earns a salary in a band from £145,000 to £150,000. Ann Beasley, Director General Finance & Corporate Services, Ministry of Justice, earns a salary in the band £130,000 to £135,000.
When I say 'earns' I mean that in the loosest sense of the word.