MARK Francois, the former minister for Portsmouth has lambasted outsourcing giant Capita for its ‘disastrous’ record in recruiting new troops to bolster the nation’s military.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence revealed that Capita was managed to bring in fewer than one in 10 of the recruits the army needs for 2018-19 in the first quarter of the year.
Giving evidence to the commons defence committee, the permanent secretary at the MoD Stephen Lovegrove acknowledged Capita, which has had the contract for Army recruiting since 2012, had ‘underperformed’.
The disclosure drew an angry response from MPs on the committee who warned the service was ‘withering on the vine’ and called for the contractor to be sacked.
The deputy chief of the defence staff, Sir Mark Poffley, said that in the three months to August, the Army had recruited just 10 per cent of the officer recruits and seven per cent of the other ranks it needed for 2018-19.
That compared with recruitment 22 per cent of the officers and 20 per cent of other ranks for the Royal Navy, 100 per cent of officers and 10 per cent of other ranks for the Royal Marines, and 56 per cent of officers and 48 per cent of other ranks for the RAF.
Tory MP Mr Francois said, since Capita was controversially awarded the contract for army recruitment, it had consistently failed to meet its targets and branded the situation a ‘farce’..
‘The whole of the department knows Capita are a disaster. They know nothing about recruitment. How badly do you have to fail before you get sacked by your department?’ he demanded.
‘The army is withering on the vine because it is being starved of recruits because these people haven't got a clue what they are doing.
‘The army is a basket case. This is affecting our ability to fight.’
The situation comes as all military wings struggle to plug black holes in its manpower numbers.
Mr Lovegrove acknowledged Capita had ‘clearly underperformed’ but said the problems with army recruitment went beyond the contractor.
‘Employment in the nation generally is fairly buoyant,’ he told the committee. ‘That is not for recruitment, certainly to other ranks in the army, a particularly propitious backdrop.’.
He added: ‘A lot has been done with Capita.
‘I don't think it would be reasonable to expect instant results from a big supertanker such as army recruitment.’