back to article Academics horrified that administration of Turing student exchange scheme outsourced to Capita

Everyone's favourite outsourcing badass Capita is taking control of the £110m Turing student exchange programme formerly run by The British Council, a public corporation. Announced in 2020 by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the new Turing Scheme replaced the EU's Erasmus student exchange scheme, which the UK withdrew from as …

  1. Noonoot

    Someone getting rich on the side

    So whose pockets are being lined this time? Which friend of the cousin of the neighbour of so and so MP who they met down the pub?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Someone getting rich on the side

      May be they should send some Christmas hampers/party gifts to No 10 for the vote of confidence in the company, and for continued partnership in helping the government dispose of large quantities of cash. A few rolls of wall paper would no doubt be gratefully received.

      1. Scott Pedigo
        Coat

        Re: May be they should send some Christmas hampers/party gifts to No 10

        I first read that as Christmas hamsters. Which sort of fits when you're talking cronyism.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: May be they should send some Christmas hampers/party gifts to No 10

          I first read that as Christmas hamsters

          Is that a larger form of pigs in blankets?

    2. martyn.hare
      Flame

      Tories wanted to can TV Licencing

      Crapita gives guaranteed upfront cash to BBC and then collects excesses for profit. So they had to "sweeten the deal" and throw them a bone, didn't they?

      Twats.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Running

    delivering solutions that keep the UK government running

    Running from whom and where?

    1. RobLang

      Re: Running

      From the tax man and to the Cayman Islands.

  3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Unhappy

    How do they do it?

    How do companies like Capita time and again fail to deliver on government contracts yet get more of them? Particularly when competing against an established and, as far as I can make out, successful incumbent? Oh, Hang on, the British Council sounds like a public body :

    "The early 1930s were a time of global instability. Britain’s influence was weakened because of a global financial depression, which reduced living standards, jobs, and trade.

    At the same time, extreme ideologies were gaining ground, with the rise of Communism in Russia, and Fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain.

    The UK government created the British Council in response."*

    So that explains it - crap commercial organisation: GOOD, efficient, well-liked public body: BAD.

    As you were, nothing to see here, nothing at all.

    * https://www.britishcouncil.org/about-us/history

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: How do they do it?

      "How do companies like Capita time and again fail to deliver on government contracts yet get more of them?"

      Because there are so few of them big enough to take on these sort of contracts that they can all pitch themselves as being no worse than the rest.

    2. tojb

      Re: How do they do it?

      Party donations, revolving door.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: fail to deliver on government contracts yet get more of them?

      well, too big to fail I suppose, a proven formula.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do they do it?

      The rules - conveniently - don't allow past performance on other contracts to be taken into account. If they did then clearly Crapita would have gone under years ago.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Then change the rules.

        It's the Government, innit ? Government is made to change the rules.

      2. Eff Flintstone

        Re: How do they do it?

        "The rules - conveniently - don't allow past performance on other contracts to be taken into account. If they did then clearly Crapita would have gone under years ago."

        More likely that the rules would have been rewritten years ago.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How do they do it?

        "The rules - conveniently - don't allow past performance on other contracts to be taken into account"

        I've heard this on multiple occasions. I'm sure other readers (and me) would welcome any definitve references.

        [TLDR: Citation welcome :) ]

        Even if past performance was allowed to be considered they'd probably just form sufficiently obsure trading entities to fool the "decision makers".

        So, what's the answer then?

        Public poor performance produces piss poor payments (at board level)?

        The senior managers justify their megabonuses and other loadsamoney because "they are in very responsible roles". So presumably they're still responsible when things don't go as the customer might have hoped, right?

        1. BearishTendencies

          Re: How do they do it?

          There's a reason there are no definitive references re: can't take past performance into account. It's bollocks

          Here's the Government policy on how its done

          https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/417211/PPN04-15_Supplier_Past_Performance_.pdf

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How do they do it?

            I agree they should take it into account but generally they don't. Most UK government procurements preclude it because it exposes under-skilled commercial teams to unwanted risk of liability.

            i.e. they remove a supplier bid based on past performance and they get sued.

            And getting sued halts the procurement exercise.

          2. Max Pyat

            Re: How do they do it?

            Did you read the document you linked?

            It is almost impossible to apply and leaves you open to challenge due to subjectivities.

            I've worked in large scale procurement and it's incredibly hard to use bad past performance to exclude vendors. In particular, the assessment is always, IME, based only on what you receive as part of the process so you've to be super careful and clever if youre going to exclude on past failures.

            Three pragmatic approaches I've used:

            1) BEFORE you tender: bring the supplier in for repeated bollockings on basis of their current poor performance. Make it incredibly uncomfortable to be your supplier. Verbally, and as clearly as you dare, leave them in no doubt that if you seem pissed off now it's nothing to what you'll be like if they wander back in to sell you more. Make the individual agents of company believe that you'll hold it against them personally in future; even if they turn up representing a different company in the future.

            2) Again, BEFORE you tender, get the supplier black listed because of their performance or because an investigation is ongoing. Hard, and might not stick when you actually launch tender, but good if it works.

            3) Most by the book, but hard: Set up the assessment criteria to heavily weight what the bad supplier is bad at. Hope that they don't manage to spoof their way through it

            Fundamentally, it's hard to punish your current suppliers for their failures in next tender. But it's almost impossible to punish them for failures serving other customers (e.g. for DfE to punish Capita because they made a balls of MoD contracts). Some of it is regs, but it's also the asymmetry. They know directly the scenario, you (e.g. in DfE) have indirect hearsay, and beyond that end up relying on the submissions of your vendors (read the linked doc!)

            When I've intimidated/deterred a supplier to f*** off, it's only ever temporary. When/if they turn up again in 4 years they will explain that they've been on a big quality/improvement drive and are now so much better. And you have to give them a fair shot

            1. BearishTendencies

              Re: How do they do it?

              Only the mere 20 years as a commercial practitioner....

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: How do they do it?

        The rules - conveniently - don't allow past performance on other contracts

        That's not entirely true - the rules do allow us to take 'industry reputation' into account..

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Small businesses

    I thought that we were told a few years ago that the government was going to give more contracts to small businesses. I see very little of this happening.

    Maybe the problem is that many small businesses do not know were to obtain brown envelopes.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Small businesses

      "Maybe the problem is that many small businesses do not know were to obtain brown envelopes that are big enough."

      FIFY!

    2. Evilgoat76

      Re: Small businesses

      Look at the tendering process. We *could* do some of the smaller ones that come up, but by the time we have done the checks, qualifications, paperwork and other crap there is neither willpower or point having blown tens of thousands just to be able to tender!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Capita has something of a disputable track record in the UK public sector."

    Typo needs fixinf:

    "Crapita has a disreputable track record."

    Has anyone told Private Eye about this? (I daren't look at it these days, it's too depressing)

    1. Alex Stuart

      Re: "Capita has something of a disputable track record in the UK public sector."

      > Has anyone told Private Eye about this? (I daren't look at it these days, it's too depressing)

      I hear you on that. I am numb to it at this point, after many years, so haven't cancelled my subscription yet. (Though numb != not care, at least)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    according to a contract notice

    "Access to the procurement documents is restricted."

    "II.2.5) Award criteria

    Price is not the only award criterion and all criteria are stated only in the procurement documents"

    So for all we know the tender might simply have said "If your name isn't Capita, you need not bother applying"

  7. Tilda Rice

    Just missing the "lism" on the end of Capita, to make the perfect pantomime villain for "academics."

    A union scathing of an outsourcing decision, ooooh what a shock. I can't think why they would think that.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Couldn't possibly be that they think an organisation with experience of education around the world is better placed to support thousands of students living in a foreign country for the first time than a minimum wage call centre worker employed by a company that routinely under-performs almost as its mission statement.

      Nah.

  8. tojb
    Gimp

    Why Turing?

    Do students have to be gay, or *shudder* into computer science?

    Is a history of unjust persecution by the UK govt. required if you want to apply?

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: Why Turing?

      As a gay great grand-student of Turing's, I am appalled that he was conscripted as a brexiter.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Why Turing?

        Don't mention conscription, least someone gets ideas. Congratulations! You have been placed at Pirbright college. This facility provides free food, accommodation and haircuts!

        1. Our Lord and Savior Rahl

          Re: Why Turing?

          With a bit of luck they may have at least fixed the hot water in the showers by now though - I counted myself lucky if I could get 5 seconds of hot in every 25 seconds of cold for my allotted 2 minutes :(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Turing?

      Turing was a remarkable man, dreadfully treated, but he is now ridiculously overused, probably to avoid actually doing anything about LGB people's issues nowadays. See also: Mary Seacole.

      1. Dr Paul Taylor

        Re: Why Turing?

        Until not so long ago, Turing was barely known to the population at large. That he has achieved seriously belated posthumous fame is a tribute to the massive amount of work done by Andrew Hodges and the late Barry Cooper. I don't know who led the campaign to get him on the fifty pound note. That the miserable brexiters abuse his legacy does not detract from it.

  9. babaganoush

    Third rate scheme in comparison to Erasmus administered by a fourth rate company. Sums up this government rather accurately.

  10. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Stop the hypocrisy

    Make it easy: outsource government to Capita and al.

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: Stop the hypocrisy

      Let's see now....

      Crap govt, crap[ita] company.

      And you said: "Make it easy: outsource government to Capita"

      Maybe ... Crapita has been running the govt since 2010?

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Stop the hypocrisy

      "Boris Johnson named CEO of Capita , and Priti Patel named General Director. All government jobs has been outsourced to India."

    3. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Stop the hypocrisy

      You're assuming that Capita hasn't already outsourced government to the Conservative party.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent stock photo.

    They were definitely not on my IT degree course.

  12. Andrew Barr

    Project completion ration

    I wonder if anyone has any statistics on Craptia and what there actual project completion ratio is?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Project completion ration

      Commercial In Confidence

  13. EBG

    I'm no fan of Crapita

    but the research councils aren't even academia marking its own homework. They're academia setting its own questions and not bothering with the marking. If they're having their wings clipped, then that's all to the good

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The Khmer Rouge killed people who wore glasses

    The tories use Crapita to make those who know what they are doing either leg it or learn knots.

  15. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Crapita

    Underbid and underdeliver is the name of their game.

    no doubt this 110m will deliver only 4000 places, out of the 40 promised, none of which will go to those not related to the directors or government bodies that approved the contract.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Crapita

      Now there's an idea. Competitive tendering for placements. Highest bidders get best locations, lowest, a .50% discount at Canvey Island Poly. A wholly owned susidiary of Crapita Plc. Chancellor Sir Nicholas Soames welcomes all students, regardless of ability, even if they're not related to Churchill.

  16. JohnMurray

    Ermm

    https://www.civilserviceworld.com/professions/article/capita-failures-nhs-england-told-to-consider-bringing-some-admin-services-inhouse

    https://dentistry.co.uk/2018/06/26/nhs-england-admits-capita-failings-unacceptable/

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/03/capita-pays-compensation-family-woman-who-died-after-benefits-cut-philippa-day

    https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5123.short

    https://www.forces.net/news/capita-failing-bring-army-recruits

    https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/capita-faces-fresh-calls-to-be-stripped-of-pip-contracts-after-documentary/

    https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1347

    There are pages more...of C[r]apita failings/disasters/oversights

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