Capita accused of £98m failure

Capita “carries a lot of responsibility” for the failure of an electronically tagged offenders monitoring system, which cost taxpayers £98 million, senior officials of HM Prison & Probation (HMPPS) told a parliamentary committee this week. The service giant had failed to grasp the scope of the project, which was scrapped in 2021 after years of delay, they said.

The Gemini monitoring system for offenders was scrapped last year, at a cost of £98 million. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

The Gemini system was supposed to simplify the monitoring of offenders wearing electronic tags to ensure they met parole conditions around exclusion zones or attending meetings and events. It was announced in 2011 as part of a broader plan to digitally transform the tagging process, but was scrapped last year, two years after its first delivery date in 2019.

A damning report from the National Court of Audit, released earlier this month, said there had been shortcomings on both sides when it came to demolishing Gemini, and without it it would be difficult to obtain complete and reliable data on the behavior of perpetrators.

Gemini electronic tagging system: who is responsible for its failure?

Speaking at a meeting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, Antonia Romeo, permanent secretary of the Justice Department, which also includes HMPPS, said Capita had failed to deliver as promised and received significant compensation as a result. had to pay.

“The complexity of the system and the time frame around it contributed to where we ended up,” Romeo said. “Capita gave us the maximum payout we could get under the terms of the contract, which would indicate that they had a lot of responsibility for what happened.”

The model for Gemini, which would have replaced a system where officials manually enter information about perpetrators into a database, was developed by Dr. Jo Farrar, chief executive of HMPPS, described it as “complex and ambitious”.

The contract was entered into “for all the right reasons because we wanted to deliver something transformative,” said Dr. Farrar to MPs. “But it was very complex, there were several suppliers involved. Capita’s performance in rectifying defects was not addressed early enough and there are questions for us in terms of did we find out early enough that they took no action but they did pay £10 million in compensation for not rectifying these defects .”

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Indeed, this complexity has led to a series of delays and disputes between the parties. “The MoJ and Capita didn’t understand how complex [the contract] would be,” said Dr. farrar. “As we worked through it, the complexity became more apparent and as a result, the specifications and timelines changed.”

Should Gemini have been scrapped sooner?

The National Court of Audit report asked if Gemini should have been scrapped sooner, highlighting the missed deadline in 2019 as a point where the plug could have been pulled, potentially saving taxpayers millions.

But MoJ officials told the PAC that the decision to go ahead with the project is bearing fruit in other areas, with Capita implementing other parts of the tagging system, allowing it to expand to more categories of offenders.

“There are points in this program where it can be argued in hindsight that several decisions could have been made, most notably the decision in the summer of 2019 whether we should proceed if the report clearly states that Capita had missed their delivery date,” said Jim. . Barton, senior responsible owner at HMPPS. “We have reviewed this decision and, even in hindsight, we believe it was correct based on the facts.”

Barton added:[We were able to] making changes to the technical architecture that moved elements of the system to the cloud, allowing us to expand the service. We were confident that Gemini could be delivered in the summer of 2020, [but] in the end, that trust was not confirmed.”

HMPPS also defended its continued partnership with Capita, which signed a six-year contract for electronic monitoring services with the Department of Justice in 2015, an agreement that was extended for another three years in 2020. Capita, HMPPS’ largest IT supplier in terms of spend, says the renewed contract is worth an additional £114 million.

dr. Farrar said improvements have been made in the monitoring and management of third-party contracts by HMPPS and MoJ as a result of the issues with Gemini. “It’s really important that the best person to deliver the project comes in to deliver it,” she said. “Capita offers us a very strong service in other areas.”

Technical Monitor approached Capita earlier this month for comment on the NAO report, but received no response. We have contacted the company again to respond to these most recent claims.

Earlier this month, the government revealed a new roadmap for digital transformation, which includes five core missions, each “sponsored” by a senior official. The mission to “deliver transformed public services that deliver the right results” is sponsored by Dr. farrar.

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