THE Army has not been able to recruit the troops it needs in any year since signing a controversial £495million contract with outsourcing giant Capita in 2012.
It currently has 77,000 fully trained soldiers compared with a target of 82,500, the Commons Defence Committee was told in October.
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) today found both Capita and the Army ‘underestimated the complexity’ of the British Army Recruiting Partnering Project, leading to ‘significant problems’.
These included an online recruitment system planned for July 2013 but launched 52 months late at a cost of £113m — triple the original budget. Applicants experienced technical problems when the system eventually launched.
The NAO report found it took up to 321 days for new recruits to go from starting an application to beginning basic training. A total of 47 per cent of applicants dropped out of the process voluntarily in 2017-18 and both the Army and Capita believe the delay was a significant factor.
Capita, which has a ten-year contract ending in 2022, has consistently missed recruitment targets, with the total shortfall ranging from 21 per cent to 45 per cent, the report added.
The Army estimates there were 13,000 fewer applications between November 2017 and March 2018 than the previous year. This could lead to up to 1,300 fewer enlistments.
The NAO found that neither the Army nor Capita tested changes to the recruitment process before it was introduced and the number of local recruitment centres was cut from 131 to 68 to save costs. It said the project will not achieve its planned savings of £267m for the Ministry of Defence.
However, both parties ‘believe recent changes will improve the recruitment of regulars and officers’, the report added.
A Capita spokesperson said: ‘Our focus is now on working with the Army to deliver a recruitment process fit for the 21st century. We are absolutely committed to getting this partnership right.’