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EXCLUSIVE: Capita Admits Software Bug Plaguing Army Recruitment Portal

"This is a known issue, which we are taking very seriously"

By CBR Staff Writer

A mere 14 percent of applicants to the British Army actually end up joining, while a massive 47 percent “voluntarily” drop out through the process, a blistering report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee found last week – describing “abysmal” service delivery by Capita, which in 2012 signed a ten-year recruitment contract with the Army.

The report (which also targeted the “naive” Army for contract management errors) blamed in part the length of time it takes to get new recruits enrolled: in 2017–18, half of applicants took a whopping 321 days to complete the recruitment process (from application to starting basic training); one third took over 400 days.

Now Computer Business Review can reveal that as recently as this week the online army recruitment portal co-built by the Army and Capita is sending out automated messages to would-be joiners threatening to terminate their application unless they submit unspecified information – then directing them to a dead link.

This “chaser” message being sent to Army applicants demands information – but the button to send it is a dead link. Those not responding within 14 days will have their applications terminated, it notes.

Army Recruitment Bug: “This is a Known Issue”

A Capita spokesperson admitted the issue, telling us by email: “This is a known issue, which we are taking very seriously, and are in the process of fixing.”

The London-headquartered company, added: “It has affected a very small percentage of candidates. In at least 90 percent of those cases, the candidate’s application has already progressed.”

This latter claim is, of course, hard for us to confirm. Army recruitment office staff contacted by phone said that they were familiar with the problem and suggested that it was widespread: “Does it say ‘chaser’?” One staff member asked.

“They’re going to everyone. We’re not sure what’s going on…”

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The emails come despite another page on the recruitment portal saying that there are no pending tasks for applicants to complete.

Capita insisted that no applications were actually being terminated under an automated process as the email suggests.

“We do not cancel or withdraw any applications on the basis of non-response to single emails. We always use all means possible to  try to contact them –  including SMS, phone call, WhatsApp – several times before we make that decision” a spokesman said in an emailed comment.

army recruitment

The screen on the same applicant’s portal.

The bug and poor user experience on the portal are just the latest issue Capita – which was awarded £495 million for the contract – has had to address.

Parliament found last week that the company had met its contracted key performance indicators just four times out of 228 since August 2015.

The Public Affairs Committee not responded to a request for comment on the bug as we published.

Calls to the British Army for comment were directed to a legacy number. When transferred to an updated number the call went unanswered. Applicants say recruitment staff could be easily reached by phone however.

The Public Accounts Committee noted in its report: “It has taken the Army and Capita too long to analyse why applicants voluntarily drop out of the process, despite losing 47 percent of applicants this way.”

See also: Auditors Slam UK Security Vetting IT Failure

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