Monday, 17 November 2014

PQ - 17 November 2014

17 November 2014
Translation Services
Department of Health

Andrew Rosindell (Romford, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will confirm how much his Department has spent on translation services since January 2011.

Daniel Poulter (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health; Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Conservative)
Departmental translation and interpreter spend from January 2011 is provided in the following table.
Departmental Spend (excluding VAT)

Interpretation and Translation costs
Interpretation and Translation Total

£ 45,502
The figures are taken from the Department’s Business Management System where they are jointly categorised as translation and interpreter services. Information is based on all calendar years from January 2011 and up to 30 September 2014.
The significant increase in spend in 2014 can be primarily attributed to the translator and associated costs for the Global Action Against Dementia Summit.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

PQs - 11 November 2014

11 November 2014
Magistrates' Courts
Ministry of Justice

Andy Slaughter (Shadow Minister (Justice); Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many times magistrates' courts hearings in each district have had to be postponed for lack of (a) prosecution preparedness, (b) the failure of Capita interpreters' contract, (c) lack of availability of court and (d) any other reason in the last year.

Shailesh Vara (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice; North West Cambridgeshire, Conservative)
Data are published in Court Statistics Quarterly showing the number of trials in magistrates’ courts which are ineffective or postponed on the day of trial. This is for a variety of agreed reasons, including “Prosecution not ready”, “Interpreter availability” and “Court administration”. However, this only includes cases that have been listed for trial and are adjourned, not for any other hearings, such as preliminary hearings, guilty plea hearings or sentencing. HMCTS does not centrally collate the data on adjourned hearings, other than trials, and the reasons behind the adjournment.
The volume of trials listed in magistrates’ courts, and those which were ineffective, are published in Table 3.5 of Court Statistics Quarterly which can be found at:
The national Criminal Justice Board, chaired by my Rt Hon Friend the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, is overseeing the Transforming Summary Justice programme, a collaboration between police, CPS and the courts to ensure that cases in the magistrates’ courts are prepared and prosecuted in a timely and efficient manner. It is currently being rolled out.

11 November 2014
Applied Language Solutions
Ministry of Justice

Andy Slaughter (Shadow Minister (Justice); Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what financial penalties ALS/Capita has paid in each month of (a) 2013 and (b) 2014 for missing agreed service delivery standards since taking over the contract for the delivery of language services to his Department.

Andrew Selous (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury); South West Bedfordshire, Conservative)
Capita TI only gets paid for completed bookings, so if it cannot supply an interpreter, it does not get paid. The Ministry of Justice manages service delivery and performance through a number of methods and remedies open to it under the contract. The Ministry is continually working with the supplier to improve performance delivery standards.
If performance in a particular month falls below that stated in the contract (98%) success rate, the department receives a monetary credit from Capita TI. Service Credits can be imposed on Capita TI in line with the terms of the contract. The Service Credits are calculated at the end of each financial year and not monthly and from the beginning of the contract. In January 2012 till March 2014 the total amount of services credits are as below:
The service credit amounts for Jan 2012 – March 2014
The interpreting contract was introduced to tackle the inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the previous system. The contract has delivered significant improvements so far and we now have a system that is robust, sustainable and able to deliver a quality service at an affordable level. As a result of the contract, we have spent £27m less in the first two years it has been running, and it continues to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Outsourcers strive to rebuild reputations after scandals 
5 November 2014

Outsourcers strive to rebuild reputations after scandals
The failure of G4S to provide trained security for the London 2012 Olympics, meant the Armed Forces were drafted in
The gleaming new Fiona Stanley hospital in Perth, Western Australia, is a state of the art facility, with 783 beds, comprehensive clinical services and extensive research capabilities.
Opened last month, the hospital will also be a trailblazer for the private sector in Australia’s largely state-run health system, because Serco, the British outsourcing company, has a $4.3bn contract to provide non-clinical services at Fiona Stanley. Serco is charged with ensuring the hospital’s smooth running, and will even have 18 robots capable of delivering 2,200 freshly cooked meals each day.
The increasing involvement of private companies in the provision of health services across the world is just one example of how outsourcing companies have over the past 30 years usurped much of the work previously done by local and central governments. The outsourcing model has enjoyed rapid expansion since Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, pioneered the idea of getting the private sector to run public services in the 1980s.
Baroness Thatcher’s ideas spread across the western world, and in the UK spawned three outsourcing giants – Serco, G4S and Capita. These companies have planted flags in more countries than Britain’s former colonial empire, running everything from defence, health and transport services to prisons and work programmes for the unemployed.
But in the past two years, a series of fiascos and scandals – from G4S’s failure to provide enough security guards for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, to computer glitches in Serco’s administration of President Barack Obama’s US healthcare reforms, to Capita’s inadequate supply of interpreter services in UK courts – have brought the outsourcing model into disrepute. These episodes also raised far reaching questions about how far the private sector can be used in the provision of public services.
The biggest crisis to hit the outsourcers came last year when G4S and Serco were temporarily barred from winning new British government contracts. This followed their referral to the Serious Fraud Office, the UK’s main anti-fraud agency, for overcharging on the electronic monitoring of offenders. It emerged that G4S and Serco had been billing the British ministry of justice for tracking the movements of offenders who had moved abroad, returned to prison or even died.
“This has been an absolute earthquake and a disaster for Serco,” Rupert Soames, Serco’s chief executive, said in September, when grilled by UK parliamentarians about how the company had overcharged for the tagging of offenders. “What happened was totally unacceptable and unethical. Frankly, we are deeply ashamed of it.”
It is perhaps fitting that the task of restoring the outsourcing industry’s reputation rests with Mr Soames – grandson of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill – who was appointed Serco’s chief executive in May this year.
Of the big British outsourcers, Serco is suffering the most. It fell to a pre-tax loss of £7.3m in the first half of 2014, compared with a profit of £106m during the same period last year, partly because its largest government contract – running Australia’s immigration detention centres – plummeted in value due to a policy change that has reduced the number of people using the facilities. Serco’s costs also rose because of problems with other contracts, and it won fewer new outsourcing deals than it was hoping.
The straight-talking, well-connected Mr Soames – who wore a specially made jacket emblazoned “Serco and proud of it” to the company’s annual meeting – has warned it will take time to rebuild trust and confidence with the UK government. It agreed last year to pay £64.3m to the government for overcharging in relation to the tagging of offenders.
Mr Soames highlighted the challenges of running a large company operating in more than 30 countries when he told parliamentarians: “Perhaps I may gently say that in an organisation of 125,000 people, the one thing I guarantee is that someone somewhere is doing something very stupid or making a mistake 24/7. We cannot run a completely error-free organisation.”
In an organisation of 125,000 people, the one thing I guarantee is that someone somewhere is doing something very stupid or making a mistake 24/7
- Rupert Soames, Serco’s chief executive
He is seeking to stabilise the company through a no-holds barred review of its 700 contracts, because some have low margins or are even lossmaking. Serco has put in place a more rigorous system for monitoring its contracts, to avoid a repeat of the overcharging scandal.
Such a review has already taken place at G4S, which prompted the company to take a £136m charge against earnings last year, mainly because of its settlement with the UK government in relation to the electronic tagging affair.
G4S slumped to a pre-tax loss of £170m in 2013, but it is now showing signs of recovery. The company, which changed its chief executive last year, reported a pre-tax profit of £85m in the first six months of 2014, partly because of increased revenue from emerging markets.
Less than 10 per cent of G4S’s revenue is derived from the UK government – compared with about 25 per cent at Serco – so it has been in a better position to bounce back.
The smallest and least troubled of the three British outsourcers is Capita. Indeed, it has benefited from the scandal that engulfed G4S and Serco – this year Capita won a contract to monitor offenders with the UK government after its larger rivals lost this work.
However, Capita’s pre-tax profits fell 3 per cent to £152.3m in the six months to June 30, partly because of higher finance costs.
All three outsourcers have significant debt loads following acquisitions, and Serco and G4S have both moved to strengthen their balance sheets by raising capital from shareholders.
Even if the outsourcers are correcting their past mistakes, there is a realisation among some investors that government contracts are not the safe bet they had imagined.
Industry insiders say the tendering process, particularly for public sector contracts, encourages buyers to choose the cheapest offer, rather than focusing on quality of service.
At the G4S-run Oakwood prison, near Wolverhampton, – nicknamed “Jokewood” after a series of riots – the company is paid £13,200 per inmate per year. This amounts to half the cost per inmate at publicly-run prisons.
Furthermore, outsourcers are sometimes dealing with badly drawn contracts, which are subject to constant changes – for example, the UK government increased the number of security guards required for the 2012 Olympics only a few months before the games.
The outsourcers’ mid to high single-digit operating margins are also under pressure from new entrants, including construction companies. These builders are used to low single-digit margins in their core businesses.
Still, few doubt that the outsourcing boom will continue, not least because governments are seeking to close budget deficits in part through reduced public spending.
If politicians have enjoyed beating up the big outsourcers in public, there is an acknowledgment from some in private that governments need these companies as much as vice versa. Serco’s robots serving up meals at Fiona Stanley hospital in Perth should have a busy future.