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 year.
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.’