The Ministry of Defence has pledged that lessons are being learned from a £1.3bn decade-long Army recruitment partnership with outsourcing giant Capita that has consistently failed to deliver.
Signed in 2012 the deal has missed every target for recruiting regulars and reserves – in some years by 45% and never by less than 21%.
According to MPs on parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the size of the shortfall in recruit numbers has increased over the past three years and is expected to be 40% below target for 2018-19, when the final figures are known.
The 2017-18 shortfall in provision equated to 7,000 fewer regular and reserve soldiers and officers being recruited than was required. The programme is also now forecast to provide the MoD with a lower level of savings than was originally anticipated, dropping from the expected £267m to £180m by 2022.
In a committee session in January, MoD perm sec Stephen Lovegrove admitted that his department and the Army had made “bad mistakes” in their handling of the underperforming contract – known as the Recruiting Partnering Project.
In their subsequent report on the project, the PAC called on the department to explain how “radical new ideas for recruitment” were being considered for when the contract expires in 2022.
In its formal response to the report, the MoD said it now recognised that the RPP was “initially overly complex” and that lessons had to be taken forward.
It said a dedicated programme called the Future Recruiting Programme had already been established and was tasked with identifying the best approach to attract and select the armed forces’ future workforce from 2022. It said the new programme would cover the Army, Royal Air Force, and the Royal Navy.
“Lessons from the previous project are being captured to inform development of the programme,” the response said.
“The Army will also continue to seek to develop and transform RPP to enable the most seamless transition to FRP in due course.”
The PAC had also called on the ministry to “simplify and streamline” the Army recruitment process with pilot schemes aimed at reducing recruitment times.
The MoD said a transformational change project designed to enhance “critical issues” with the recruiting pipeline had now completed and would be rolled out nationally across the summer.
MPs also said they were “very concerned” about slow progress with improving military housing that was the subject of another Capita contract, which has been terminated five years early.
The MoD said it “remains committed to improving the condition and standard of the Service Family Accommodation estate” and that more than 95% of the department’s properties now met the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
“No homes are allocated to personnel below that standard,” it said. “In the last four years the department has invested more than £530m in SFA improvements.”