In a report on the Ministry of Justice’s contract for language services published on 22 January, the National Audit Office – body that scrutinises public spending for Parliament and which is independent of government – says it had found that progress has been made in implementing many of the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in December 2012. However, the report says, there are a number of areas where the Ministry and its contractor Capita still need to improve.
According to the NAO: “The Ministry is now performing audit checks of the security status of interpreters and some data generated by Capita. In addition, the number of interpreters available to work under the contract has increased significantly; spending outside the contract has decreased substantially for civil courts and tribunals; and the Ministry now routinely collects and monitors management information.”
However, the report states that Capita is still not meeting the target to fulfil 98% of bookings of interpreters and performance fell temporarily by 8% between December 2012 and April 2013 as a result of Capita reducing mileage payments to interpreters. Capita fulfilled over 94% of bookings in November 2013, which is similar to performance a year earlier.
“The work the Ministry has undertaken has not established whether, and if so to what extent, there is an on-going problem with the recording of customer cancellations, although it has just introduced 100% checks of these bookings,” the report says. It also reports that more than twice as many Tier 3 interpreters are being used under the contract since the NAO last reported. Tier 3 interpreters are those that have formalised basic training plus experience in the public sector, but not the formal qualifications and public sector interpreting experience required for either Tiers 1 or 2.
The Ministry has also been slow to implement some PAC recommendations. A new assessment system for interpreters has not been implemented and an independent review of quality standards has not yet been performed.