Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Susanna Garcia

I am writing to you in my capacity as a freelance translator/interpreter. I am on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and my registration number is 12973. I am registered for the provision of Italian language services and have full status. I am a member of the Society for Public Service Interpreting Ltd and the Professional Interpreters Alliance. I have a BA (Joint Honours) in Italian and French, an MA in Translation with Language Technology (Italian and French) where I received Distinction for my interpreting module, and the Metropolitan Police Test in Italian. I have over 30 years in translation and interpreting and therefore feel that I am fully qualified to express my opinion regarding the outsourcing of provision.

Moreover, at the time of writing I am the only PSI registered for Italian in the whole of Wales. As there is none registered for the Southwest, I have frequently travelled to this region to provide services at the highest level.

In summary, the points I wish to cover are:

(1)The rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services.

(2)The nature and appropriateness of the procurement process.

(3)The experience of courts and prisons in receiving interpretation services that meet their needs.

(4)The nature and effectiveness of the complaints process.

(5)The steps that have been taken to rectify under-performance and the extent to which they have been effective.

(6)The appropriateness of arrangements for monitoring the management of the contract, including the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service delivered.

1. The rationale was driven by cost considerations rather than quality. This was apparent in the tariff offered which was greatly below the previous arrangement. The interpreters on the national register were in no way consulted and it was presumptuous to assume without consultation that over 2000 highly qualified professionals would just accept derisory rates. ALS stated that they would achieve savings in excess of £50 million over the five year period of the FWA with savings of £12 million in the first year alone. This has clearly been shown not to be the case.

2. N/A.

3. On a personal level, the system for allocating the nearest interpreter to the desired location has been abused with interpreters accepting jobs in distant locations to take advantage of increased travel time and mileage. This will be documented by one of the professional organisations. In my own case, I refused two local court assignments which meant that ALS has had to provide an alternative interpreter thereby increasing cost. If ALS had respected my experience and that of my colleagues, this situation would be not be arising on a daily basis.

4. It is my understanding that ALS is responsible for dealing with complaints about its services, which is surely an inappropriate safety net. However, there have been instances of ALS being summoned to court to answer insufficient provision of services. It is unacceptable that a company should police itself in this manner.

5. N/A.

6. There are most obviously doubts on this front otherwise this Commission would not be sitting nor would the National Audit Office be investigating the situation. For myself, I can testify that the number of interpreters ALS holds on its register is incorrect, as, despite the fact that I requested the removal of my name from their books on three occasions, it is still there.

In conclusion, none of the six areas would even need to be considered if not for the lack of understanding and respect for the nature of interpreting at this level. All other qualified professionals working within the Justice system are recognised as such. Failure to afford the same courtesy to our skilled profession has resulted in what is now effectively a two tier system, where ALS by necessity is being propped up by those NRPSI interpreters still accepting calls from the courts. It should be understood that being able to communicate in a given language does not make someone an interpreter, any more than being able to express a view on a legal matter in the popular press entitles that person to call themselves a judge.

Should you have any queries or require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have not dwelt on any areas that have not impacted on myself directly as the professional organisations representing interpreters will be submitting evidence of poor quality interpreting, false statistics and unqualified interpreters on our behalf.

August 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013