Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440-459)|
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
440. Was Capita aware of that? Was Capita aware
of concerns from the Learning and Skills Council?
(Ms Metcalf) I cannot comment. We did have some discussion
with the Learning and Skills Council and we were aware that the
scheme was changing, that the emphasis of the scheme was different
as from the pilots, but I am sorry, I cannot confirm or deny.
441. Mr Doyle, you have brought in the matter
of housing benefit and I know from my personal experience that
the housing benefit form is 30 pages long. The ILA form is just
one page. From your experience, would you suggest that you should
have been saying to the Minister, "Minister, with a 30-page
form for housing benefit, we have immense fraud, so with a one-page
form we will have massive fraud. You are barmy if you put this
scheme in"? Why were you not saying that right at the beginning
of the piece?
(Mr Doyle) I do not think we believed that was the
442. From your experience, you have brought
in the matter of housing benefit and we know that there is huge
fraud there and that it is very difficult to get over, so the
form is tightened each year to try and stop fraud. You are saying
to me now that with that past experience of fraud and trying to
get fraud down, you did not advise the Minister that the one-page
form was absolutely open to abuse. You did say, and I will quote
it back, "It is not our remit to change policy", and
that seems to indicate that you actually tried to tell the Minister
this, but got a dusty answer and had been told to go away, "This
is the scheme. Go on and manage it".
(Mr Doyle) As I tried to say earlier, before this
contract was ever let, the Department had been working with advisers.
We cannot be a part of the advice team which actually puts together
a scheme and then actually bid for that work. We just would not
be allowed to do that. So the Department were working with advisers
in terms of building up the outline of the scheme against which
contractors like us would bid. In there, there were definitions
of how the scheme was going to be run. At that time, the scheme
was designed to be open and non-bureaucratic. Yes, a one-page
form. It was not for us at that time to be criticising whether
it should be open or non-bureaucratic. Where I do believe we were
at fault is that as time went on and these incidents started to
come, then yes, we did not shout loud enough obviously.
443. Okay. Moving on to complaints and customer
service, we have had repeatedly people saying, and I will just
quote one or two, "I called three times, got three different
answers, pick the most likely one", "Turnaround time
for Capita was unacceptable", "Adopt the two out of
three answerreally irritating", "Customer service
lines, other than to thank you, merely made a note of it",
et cetera. All of that would seem to indicate that whilst you
brag in your document that through Individual Learning Accounts
you seamlessly connect learners with learning providers, the evidence
that we have been given does not seem to bear that out.
(Mr Doyle) I do not know what the dates are of those
issues that you have got there. As I previously said, we did have
problems with service levels at various times throughout the scheme.
These, in the main, were around times of where the volumes were
increasing rapidly and we were having problems in keeping pace
with that, that is true.
444. If you go back to what I was asking about
previously, if you had assessed the scheme, you bid for it and
you won the contract, could you not see that abuse would take
place and, therefore, you would be in this position you are now
where you are actually defending yourselves and you perhaps should
have been a little more aware of this obviously a touch earlier?
(Mr Doyle) I have been around the game for a long
time now and I can promise you that had I spotted it, I would
have stopped it or I would not be involved. As I say, we are here
today with an awful lot of information and an awful lot of evidence
in front of us which was not there 12 months or 15 months ago.
We are not here to, we do not enter into contracts of this nature
to end up, as pleasant as this is, to be sitting in this situation.
Chairman: Thank you for that compliment, Mr
Doyle. We do not get many compliments!
445. You run the scheme in Scotland. I believe
that has just reopened. Is that correct?
(Ms Metcalf) Yes.
446. But you have kept in it the provision that
learning providers have access to the scheme, access to the database
in the way in which it was used in England apparently to pull
down a lot of these numbers. Is that correct?
(Ms Metcalf) We have, yes. I should point out that
the providers in Scotland do go through an accreditation process
which was not engaged in England, but of course the management
information which we will have provided for in Scotland will be
on a more frequent basis.
447. Who undertakes the accreditation process
(Ms Metcalf) Again forgive me, I am not sure if it
is the same organisation, learndirect, or not. I am not sure of
448. But it is outwith your contract?
(Ms Metcalf) It is outside our contract, yes.
449. Let me go back to your submission. In paragraphs
13 and 14 you say that the requirements for validation of learning
providers were removed from the scheme. That is paragraph 13 and
at the bottom of paragraph 14 you say, "Other changes to
the original scheme proposals included removal of requirements
to authenticate applications to become account holders..."
When were those requirements removed and by whom from the scheme?
(Ms Metcalf) They were removed in May 2000, a matter
of weeks before the scheme went live, and they were removed by
450. Thank you, at last. When a contract such
as this is let, clearly there is a specification drawn up by the
client and his adviser, who were KPMG?
(Mr Doyle) Yes, I believe that is correct.
451. You then bid and you hopefully win, you
win and you then discuss exactly how you are going to implement
ittell me if I am wrongand then you write a contract
and you probably start delivering the scheme before the contract
is signed. Was that the case on this occasion?
(Mr Pilling) I think we operated under a letter of
intent before the contract was finalised, yes, because of the
time pressures to deliver the service for the scheme.
452. Based on your discussions built on the
(Mr Pilling) Yes.
453. That is the letter of intent.
(Mr Pilling) Yes, I think we very rapidly went to
454. Would you say the contract was significantly
different, the scheme as outlined by the contract was significantly
different either from that contained in the letter of intent or
from that contained in the specification and, if so, how?
(Mr Pilling) I am not sure I can answer the question.
I think Denyse made the point that just prior to actually doing
the service live there were some changes and maybe some changes
after that. In terms of developing the system, that was obviously
going on prior to putting the service live and I think the understanding
of the Department's needs in that area were obviously changing
as well. I think this was a continual process. I do not think
there was one sort of date when you say that it all changed, but
I think from the date when the contract was being tendered for
right through to the date when we put the service live, there
were a number of changes going through the process.
(Mr Doyle) I was just going to say that we have not
done that piece of work to say where we are today, and how does
that reflect back to what the contract said. We have not done
that piece of work. I may well ask somebody to do that for us.
It is not the nature of the way we work. We accept that a contract
is a contract and it is signed and put away and then you get on
with working with new partners and you are in reality and you
do what is needed in reality to make things happen, so we would
not naturally have done that piece of work, but it can be done.
455. So you would expect in the course of your
implementing the contract as a result of discussions with your
partners, as you call them, that there would be changes made throughout
the delivery of the contract?
(Mr Doyle) Yes, and in most contracts, if not in all
contracts, there is a change process to be gone through.
456. I have one other question and that is about
paragraph 19. "...account holders' details", it says
here "were being offered for sale, possibly by a Capita employee".
This is on 23 November, but I understand that no Capita employee
has been charged with any offence. One of my constituents writes
to me from Freshwater that she filled in three application forms,
by which I assume she means paper application forms, and was logged
on to the website by her training provider, so, in other words,
she filled in four forms altogether before she succeeded in getting
on to the scheme. She did not receive any response to the first
three effectively. She then contacted her learning provider who
contacted yourselves who told the learning provider that her funding
had been taken from her account. She then received her card on
13 November, and she does not say which year, but I assume she
means 2001, but the ILA centre told her that the money had been
taken from her account on 6 November, in other words, before anyone
apparently outside your organisation knew her account number.
It was taken from her account by a company whom you named and
whom she has named here. How could that company have obtained
her learning account details sufficiently to draw down her funding
without the involvement of a Capita employee?
(Mr Doyle) To be honest, I am struggling to follow
that. I would be very happy to take it away. I do not think you
mentioned a company name.
457. I did not, but it was mentioned in that
letter and it was mentioned to her.
(Mr Doyle) I would be happy to take that away and
deal with that.
458. I do not think you need to take time to
read that now. If you would answer the Member of my Committee
in detail on this case, I would be obliged. The point he is making
is quite clear, is it not, that the money went out of this woman's
account before she had even ever applied and that is something
of a mystery?
(Mr Doyle) We know that has happened and we know that
there are instances of that happening. It is how it happened and
there are actually different ways that it could have happened
and that is what I cannot answer. I am not disputing the fact
that it has happened.
459. Coming back to the generality, here is
a scheme that all of us applaud, it is a good scheme and it gets
to people. The reason we are here is because we are pretty upset
that someone has pulled the plug on it for whatever reason. There
are three reasons that have been given to this Committee by you
and others, firstly, fraud. What we are getting from you is that
you think that at the end of the day that the fraud element is
not going to be that big in this scheme. This is what I am getting
(Mr Doyle) I am not trying to be awkward, but it is
important. There are two elements to this. One is the IT system
and the fraud related to the IT system which at the moment, on
the evidence we have, we do not believe is that great.
1 See Ev 91. Back