The Ministry of Defence has wasted millions of pounds on a botched online recruitment system, leaked documents have revealed.
The £1.3bn Recruitment Partnering Project is almost two years behind schedule and will not be fully operational until April 2015 at the earliest, The Times said, quoting a confidential report by technology reseach company Gartner.
Up to £15.5m has been spent on the computer system, but according to the newspaper, the problems are so serious that Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is considering spending nearly £50m on a new solution.
According to the Gartner report, the Army's recruitment wing picked the wrong bidder to build the IT system after failing in 2011 to challenge an MoD policy that favoured the less suitable of two competing offers.
The project management team was inexperienced and under-resourced and when delays started the Army failed to take charge and put in a suitable contingency plan. Hammond was being urged to pay Capita, the MoD's partner in the project, £47.7m to build a new IT platform.
A briefing note sent from the MoD's director general finance David Williams to Hammond in December recommended scrapping the flawed IT system and paying Capita to build its own model.
He wrote: "If the ICT hosting solution is not put in place then the MoD risks not gaining the appropriate number of recruits needed. Given recent criticism of army recruitment . . . and the use of reserves, this would lead to further negative media reporting and reputational damage for MoD."
Another briefing note revealed that the MoD will incur additional costs of £1m a month until the IT problem is resolved.
The Army is being cut from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020 while the newly-renamed Army Reserve – formerly the Territorial Army – is being expanded from 19,000 to 30,000.
But in a paper lodged in Parliament in December Hammond said that recruitment in 2013 "has been well below historic levels" and acknowledged there were problems with the IT system.
Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said: "This leaked report points to the latest series of catastrophic failures at the Ministry of Defence on David Cameron's watch.
"Labour warned that the Government was taking risks with Britain's security by not fixing the reserve recruitment crisis before reducing numbers in the regular Army. We specifically raised the worrying IT problems and Capita's performance as causes for concern. But the Government recklessly pressed ahead.
"Now we learn that the problems were worse than anyone thought and still haven't been fixed. The blame for this latest fiasco - which is wasting £1m of taxpayers money every month – lies squarely with government. Philip Hammond needs to get a grip and sort this shambles out."
An MoD spokeswoman said: "In December last year we acknowledged a number of problems with the Army and Capita recruitment partnership. Ministers have gripped these problems and put in place a number of fixes to correct the issues that had emerged.
"As we have previously said, in the medium-term we are building a new IT platform that will be ready early next year and in the short term we are introducing work-arounds and mitigation measures to the old IT platform to simplify the application process.
"With an improved Army recruitment website, streamlined medicals and an increase in the number of recruiting staff, recruits should see a much improved experience at the end of this month."