What has the Ministry of Justice got to hide?
I have been studying the answers to Parliamentary Questions officials from the Ministry of Justice have been giving in the past few months in relation to the provision of interpreting services by Applied Language Solutions/Capita since the contract went live on 30th January 2012.
Words failed me when I came across two answers given on two consecutive days back in March.
On 21st March in an answer to Mr Slaughter's question on the Administrator's Monitoring Requirements of the framework agreement between his Department and Applied Language Solutions, Mr Crispin Blunt, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, says: "The Ministry of Justice are receiving daily management information from the contractor concentrating on priority areas of interpreter availability and fulfilment of bookings."
Yet, a day later on 22nd March in an answer to Jonathan Edward’s questions on how many court cases have been delayed due to (a) non-attendance, (b) quality of the translation or interpreter or (c) any other language-related reason since the introduction of the new contract, Mr Jonathan Djanogly, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, says: "Figures are not available on the number of court hearings delayed as a result of problems with interpreters either before or after the new contract started."
The two statements just don’t seem to add up. How can the Ministry of Justice be receiving daily management information and have no figures available? What kind of management information are they receiving? Management speak?
We have also heard that the information from local courts on ALS interpreting performance is not collated centrally. However, when we try to send separate Freedom of Information Requests to such courts, they get sent back to the MoJ and their Strategic Briefing and Information Team tells us: “The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for managing the HMCTS estate, which is why all requests of this nature are being handled centrally”. Vicious circle? Incompetence? Or an attempt to find an excuse to refuse to give any details?
Then we find out that on 24th May the Chief Statistician at the MoJ will publish a full statistical analysis of the performance of ALS up to 30 April. Yet, the Strategic Briefing and Information Team at the Ministry of Justice tells us that these statistics are collated by ALS. Isn’t there a contradiction that the statistics are provided by the supplier which the MoJ should be monitoring?
I am puzzled. Can anyone enlighten me please?