'Bungled' Army 2020 IT recruitment contract loses £70m of savings

Mismanaged IT contracts lead to further setbacks in Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Army recruitment drive

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Army recruitment drive has suffered further setbacks due to mismanaged IT contracts.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on Army 2020 stated that poor management of IT contracts by the MoD and the Army was to blame for the loss of £70m of savings.

“The MoD's bungling around the recruitment contract with Capita has meant at least £70m of the planned £267m savings from the contract have already been lost. There was no clear understanding of the scale of the recruitment challenge, poor information about potential recruits and the MoD did not provide Capita with the IT infrastructure it needed,” said Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Committee of Public Accounts.

The Army 2020 initiative is the ambition to grow the size of the Army Reserve while reducing the size of the regular Army. The £440m recruitment contract with Capita was signed in 2012 to deliver part of the MoD’s Recruiting Partnering Project (RPP), which involved an online recruitment platform. The £1.3bn RPR initiative is now pushing three years late.

It was planned to deliver £267m of savings, but problems with the IT have reduced these savings by at least £70m. 

Part of this amount comes from the Army paying additional costs of £1m per month until the IT is ready in the summer of 2015. Some of these costs will be from paying an extra 80 soldiers and 100 temporary staff to help Capita run the recruitment process.

Poorly managed IT contracts

The PAC said the MoD failed to provide the IT infrastructure that was critical to the recruitment contract. It blamed the decision to choose two separate contracts for hosting and software – the hosting contract with Atlas held by the MoD, and the software contract with Capita held by the Army.

“The department and the Army failed to manage the contracts with these two suppliers effectively and the necessary IT is not expected to be ready until summer 2015,” said the report.

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A June 2014 NAO report stated that the two providers had no contractual relationship with each other, and the MoD and Army had failed to manage the two contracts. This led to a lack of suitable hosting environment which meant that Capita was unable to set up the new recruitment software on time, increasing costs.

“Having taken on the risk associated with integrating Capita’s software with the Atlas hosting environment, the department and the Army did not manage effectively the relationship between Capita and Atlas. This resulted in delays to Atlas providing a suitable hosting environment that Capita required to test the recruitment applications it was developing,” stated the NAO report.

An MoD spokesperson said it was building a new IT platform that would be ready next summer, so in the short term it had introduced workarounds and mitigation measures to the old IT platform to simplify the application process, along with an improved Army recruitment website and a streamlined recruitment process. 

"It is unfortunate that there have been problems over the ICT, but these have been addressed and are in the process of being resolved. We have absolute confidence in Capita to deliver the support to the Army that we expect,” the spokesperson added.

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