14 September 2012
Translation deal under fire again
The translation contract awarded to Saddleworth’s beleaguered Applied Language Solutions has been condemned in a new report from the National Audit Office.
The NAO claims the deal to privatise court interpretation services, awarded to ALS, was “wholly inadequate”.
Last year the company won a five-year Government contract for general translation services — including sign language - for the police and courts.
The latest criticism comes after a string of problems, including the halting of a murder trial at Winchester Crown Court in July. The judge temporarily stopped the trial when a man turned up to translate because his wife — the real interpreter — was busy elsewhere. Key words and phrases were wrongly translated and investigations revealed he wasn’t qualified or registered with ALS. A second interpreter brought in to replace him was also incapable of relaying key words to a witness.
The NAO report said the Ministry of Justice had underestimated the risks involved with granting the monopoly, as well as objections from within the industry and failing to check whether the company had enough qualified staff on its books.
Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the influential Public Accounts Committee, said ALS had managed to supply interpreters in only 58 per cent of hearings in February, 2012, against a target of 98 per cent.
“This unacceptably poor performance led to courtroom chaos,” she added.