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Friday, 14 December 2012 11:17

Contractor’s database featured pet dog

Written by Nick Farrell



UK government contractors under review


The UK Ministry of Justice was thrown into chaos after it awarded a £42 million interpreter’s contract on the basis of the size of its database. Unfortunately the small firm had bolstered the size of the database by adding in family pets. Capita, which bought the company, also counted anyone who had registered an interest on the firm’s website as a registered interpreter, as opposed to checking their qualifications, experience and suitability first.

This meant that court cases were delayed because hundreds of translators failed to turn up, and those who did could only bark and wet themselves. The small company was called Applied Language Solutions (ALS), which was taken over by Capita at the end of last year.

According to the Commons Committee of Public Accounts said the project was an “object-lesson in how not to contract out a public service” as “almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong”. Despite being warned in a credit rating report that ALS was too small to shoulder any contract worth more than £1 million, the ministry handed it a deal worth up to £42 million a year, even though it had only 280 properly assessed interpreters when 1,200 were needed. Some of the names on the database were fictitious and one person had even successfully registered their pet dog.

A spokeswoman for Capita’s translation and interpreting business told the Daily Telegraph that there have been challenges but the company was determined to get the service running at full efficiency. We guess it depends entirely on whether the interpreter’s noses are cold and wet.

Nick Farrell

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