Who is assessing ALS assessors?
It is to be hoped that the forthcoming Justice Select Committee inquiry into the FWA with ALS will get to the bottom of exactly who has been responsible for assessing ALS linguists as being competent to provide services in court. In the published contract documentation, all of the names of individuals or organisations that ALS claims are performing the ‘independent, arms-length’ assessment are redacted, so it is impossible, for example, to verify their credentials.
No doubt ALS and MoJ will bleat about ‘commercial confidentiality’, but given the large sums of taxpayers’ money that have been wasted in trials that have collapsed due to inadequate and incompetent interpreting, there is an overriding public interest argument for dragging out the truth.
It has been reported that when ALS is presented with wasted costs orders, it pleads to be spared on the grounds that ultimately, it (ALS) cannot be held accountable for the actions or competence of individual linguists who are self-employed. Of course, this is not what the FWA contract states; ALS is responsible for the actions of sub-contractors, including those to whom the assessment service has been contracted.
Of course, it is a matter of fact that ALS has bypassed the assessment process in many instances, and handed our court bookings to its linguists without making any serious effort to determine their aptitude. What is even more worrying is that it is largely because of the observations made in open courts by genuine interpreters that these deficiencies come to light, and one can only imagine what is going on in police stations where there is no scrutiny of the quality of service.
If and when the truth does come out, I fully expect it be shown that whoever is performing the assessments is simply acting as a puppet for ALS, rubber-stamping new recruits so that ALS can fulfil its bookings, with utter disregard for quality. When ALS claims to be collaborating with this or that University, perhaps what this means is that they’ve persuaded someone that just happens to work for a University to do a bit of moonlighting, earning a bit more money on the side. These individuals would be acutely embarrassed for their identities to made known, especially if it turns out they are not qualified to assess who is capable of being a court interpreter.
Let’s hope the Select Committee turns the spotlight into these dark corners of the FWA.