New Capita system has left British Army recruits unable to register online

Sandhurst personnel short of vital info on officer trainees who start in January

Newly passed out 2Lts from 6 RIFLES on Salisbury Plain Training Area. Crown copyright, 2013
New potential Army officers' vital personal details have not been passed on to training staff. Pic: Crown copyright/MoD

Updated Capita's infamous Recruitment Partnership Project (RPP) for the Ministry of Defence has finally gone live, five years after the first deal was signed – and, surprise, surprise, it is riddled with bugs and missing critical functionality.

Sources with past and present involvement in the £1.3bn RPP deal told The Register the full system, intended to handle Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Fleet Auxiliary recruitment, went live on November 13.

Instead of a seamless transfer from the previous system run by HPE, however, military recruiters encountered severe problems. Multiple sources described a large drop in the number of online applications received by the Armed Forces.

"Pre-delivery testing was very poor," said one, a recruiting subject matter expert who spoke on condition of anonymity, "with there being every indication that the system was not ready. What was demonstrated shows a lack of understanding of what the Armed Forces needs."

Another source claimed training personnel at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, have been left wondering whether or not they will have vital documents required to start training new officer recruits in January.

The existing recruitment system has been made read-only, said a further source within the MoD, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. This, we were told, has compelled the Armed Forces to start using workarounds – including recruiters manually emailing applicants with links to further information and a secure online portal, instead of this being done automatically. Some potential recruits have also taken to the Army Rumour Service forum to ask why they haven't received their activation links.

"The system doesn't separate between regular and reserve," our recruiting SME added. "It's also well known that as of [the] going-live [date], there is no reporting functionality."

This means senior recruiters cannot gain an instant overview of the numbers applying to join the armed forces. Instead they must manually count applications.

While our sources told us that the online system was not implementing age limits for military roles, our test registration for the Royal Navy found that these limits appeared to work as designed. However, one cannot use the "+" symbol in an email address – meaning privacy and spam-conscious folk cannot use this very useful data breach-tracing feature.

Last year marked the four-year point of the project, with a fed-up sounding Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, telling the House of Commons that Capita had been pressed to give the MoD "as early a delivery date as possible next year". In 2014 the then defence secretary, Philip Hammond, seriously pondered activating the £50m get-out clause in the contract to bin Capita and start over. ®

Bootnote

We were told, shortly before this article went live, that recruiters have now reverted to using the pre-Capita system. We are seeking confirmation from the MoD and Capita, though neither responded to our previous enquiries.

Update

The MoD, responding on behalf of Capita and itself, told us that the impact on RMA Sandhurst is that documentation for new joiners is delayed rather than missing completely, and that new officer cadets "will receive the documentation they need in time".

The old recruiting system has been "retained in read-only mode" until February 13, while the process of recruiters manually emailing new signups in batches of 500 "was an agreed incremental approach to support a smooth transition to the new system".

We are also assured that reporting functionality does exist in Capita's system, with the man from the Ministry saying: "Application data is being produced as required. Active recruiting continues."

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