Outsourcing to cheap translation agencies is risky

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Sir, So, Revenue & Customs has mislaid confidential information by entrusting it to an external service provider? Worse could be to come.

Because of the Government’s decision to outsource almost all translation work to two private agencies, thousands of confidential documents are now being handled by unspecified subcontractors, many of whom are likely to be based outside the UK, possibly beyond the reach of our security services. Previously such work was performed by named individuals with many years’ experience in this field, each of whom had to sign the Official Secrets Act; most were also qualified members of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and/or the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and governed by their respective codes of conduct.

The agencies claim to offer comparable quality and security, in addition to huge cost savings, but by offering rates far below those current in the UK professional translation market, they are inevitably going to attract less experienced suppliers, and/or source them from countries with lower labour costs. One of the agencies concerned already has a substantial operation in China, for example. Given the Government’s recent track record on security, can it guarantee that this is truly in the best interests of the country?

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