4 February 2013 by Catherine Baksi
Courtroom savings hard to
Doubts have been cast on the level of savings claimed
by the government for its courtroom interpreting contract, as more interpreters
refuse to work under the new terms.
A year after the widely criticised contract came
into effect, the Ministry of Justice has told the Gazette that it ‘anticipates
to have made a saving of £15m in the first year’.
However it was not able to say what percentage of
cases were being dealt with under the contract, and what had been spent on
interpreters outside the contract.
Professional Interpreters for Justice, which
represents 10 interpreter organisations, claims that only 50% of cases that
require an interpreter are being dealt with under the contract.
The MoJ originally expected to save £18m a year
under a framework agreement with Applied Language Solutions, subsequently bought
by Capita. That figure was revised to £12m, but in July justice minister Lord
McNally indicated that the figure would probably not be achieved in the first
The contract, whose failings were first reported by
the Gazette last February, has been criticised by the National Audit
Office and the Commons Public Accounts Committee for procurement and delivery
failures. A report by the Commons Justice Committee is expected this week.
Hundreds of professional interpreters have
boycotted the contract from the outset due to concerns over pay and standards.
Capita last week confirmed that it had made new
cuts to travel rates, but said it had noticed no change in the level of work
being accepted by interpreters on its books. ‘It was always expected that the first
year of Capita’s contract with the MoJ would not be profitable. We anticipate
that 2013 will see us move into profit,’ it said.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: ‘Until
the Ministry of Justice is open about how much has been spent on interpreters
outside of the ALS/Capita contract, ministerial claims of major savings simply
won’t be believed.’