Army's £495m jobs contract with Capita consistently fails to recruit enough soldiers

The British Army's £495m deal with Capita to take charge of recruitment has consistently failed to deliver enough soldiers and the project's website was delivered four years late.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) says there were "significant problems" with the British Army Recruiting Partnering Project, which "underestimated the complexity of what it was trying to achieve".

The online recruitment system was three times over budget at £113m and massively delayed, eventually launching in November 2017 - 52 months late.

Capita has consistently failed to meet recruitment targets every year since it got the contract in 2012, with the shortfall ranging from 21% to 45%.

There are 77,000 fully trained troops in the army compared with the target of 82,500, the Commons' defence committee was told in October.

"Significant changes" have been introduced in the last year, the NAO said, but still not enough soldiers are being recruited.

Many people drop out because of the long wait between starting an application and beginning basic training, which the report found took as long as 321 days.

Some 47% of applicants chose to drop out in 2017-18.

Technical problems after the online system finally launched also appear to have had a big effect.

The army estimates there were 13,000 fewer applications between November 2017 and March 2018 than the same period the year before.

Neither the army nor Capita tested changes to the recruitment process before it began and local recruitment centres were cut from 131 to 68 to save money.

The £267m saving the Ministry of Defence was planning for will not be achieved, the NAO said.

Capita's 10-year contract expires in 2022.

A spokesman for the firm said: "As the NAO report states, both Capita and the army underestimated the complexity of this project.

"Our focus is now on working with the army to deliver a recruitment process fit for the 21st century.

"We have overhauled governance on the contract and are already seeing improvements, with applications at a five-year high and a reduction in the amount of time it takes candidates to join the army.

"We are absolutely committed to getting this partnership right."

An army spokesman said: "We are fully committed to improving our recruiting process. Working with Capita we have put in place a plan to address the challenges.

"The army has developed a range of measures to speed up the recruitment process.

"This includes new measures to reduce the time between applying and starting training, greater access to military role models for recruits and a new IT system.

"The army meets all of its operational commitments to keep Britain safe."