A few months ago, we wrote a blog post called The Future of Language Service Providers, outlining the political and technological developments affecting the language industry. One political development we pointed out was the state of Washington looking to potentially replace language service providers with one independent scheduling organization, essentially centralizing interpreting services in the state. A year ago, the Danish government tried centralizing judicial interpreter services, but that did not turn out well. Previously, the UK also screwed the pooch trying to centralize judicial interpreting, which begs the question: is centralizing interpreting services a recipe for disaster?
In Denmark, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Immigration & Integration tasked the National Police with finding a vendor to privatize its language services, in an attempt to “improve quality and transparency in the Danish interpreting market.” After a long bidding process, Copenhagen-based startup EasyTranslate was eventually named sole vendor in a four-year, 80 million dollar contract. The official start date of the project was April 1, 2019. Just 8 months into the contract, the contract was immediately terminated due to “serious data protection breaches.” Apparently, EasyTranslate neglected to protect sensitive information such as indictments and arrest warrants from uncleared staff. Additionally, the contract was terminated due to “subpar contract delivery, wrong interpreter classification and poor handling of complaints.”
UK: Capita Translation and Interpreting
EasyTranslate was not the first centralization fiasco. In the UK, the Ministry of Justice also ran into issues attempting to centralize judicial interpreting services. The four-year, 290 million dollar contract was initially awarded to Capita TI, in an attempt to cut costs. However, Capita TI never managed to meet the 98% fulfillment rate, which was contractually agreed upon. Additionally, the LSP was never able to make the contract profitable. In what some considered to be a risky maneuver, English LSP thebigword took over the contract and found a way to make the contract profitable, despite heavy infrastructure investments to meet the MoJ’s compliance and quality requirements.
Centralization: Recipe for Disaster?
It is clear that awarding large interpretation contracts to a single vendor is not without risk. When centralizing interpreting services, it is extremely challenging to meet the desired quality assurance of interpreter service delivery, which is something we already mentioned. That also proved to be the downfall for both EasyTranslate and Capita TI. Also, when removing competition from the equation, what is driving the vendor to continue to innovate? When a provider essentially has a monopoly over language services, the quality of those services is bound to go down. It will be interesting to see how thebigword will fare over the next few years and whether or not other government institutions will decide to centralize language services.
What do you think about the centralization of interpretation services? Do you think it’s a recipe for disaster? Or do you think it’s just a formula that hasn’t been proven to work yet? Let us know!