MOJ financial management improving say NAO

Published on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 09:29
Posted by Scott Buckler

Financial management at the Ministry of Justice has improved considerably since the National Audit Office last examined this subject in 2010. However, in some important areas, such as income collection, the Ministry still has a great deal to do

The NAO’s 2010 report was critical of the Ministry in three main areas: the consistency of its financial management approach; its understanding of its costs; and its financial management systems and processes.

The Ministry now has effective governance structures in place and, in 2010-11, managed its money far more effectively, allowing it to redeploy funds to where they were most needed. Today’s report has found that financial management is now much more central to the operation of the organization and the quality and consistency of financial planning and forecasting have improved. Financial management is being led from the top and financial information for decision making is more relevant and useful, with the Ministry’s planning work allowing it to bring together a wide range of business information to estimate the financial implications of its workload. It has also improved oversight of its arm’s-length bodies.

The Ministry still has gaps in financial reporting skills and some of its underlying systems need further improvement. It was one of only two government departments that failed to produce their financial accounts by the 2011 summer Parliamentary recess. Several factors led to the Ministry’s problems, although the most immediate was that accounts for the National Offender Management Service were produced late. The Legal Services Commission, an arm’s-length body of the MOJ, had the audit opinion on its 2010-11 accounts qualified owing to the potential level of error, put at an estimated £50 million. There has also been little change in how the Ministry monitors and collects assets due under confiscation orders, with the amount of outstanding debt having increased by almost £400 million in 2010-11.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

"The Ministry of Justice has made considerable and welcome improvements to its financial management since I last reported. This is crucially important if the Ministry is to meet its cost reduction targets.

"However, the Ministry should not underestimate how much there is still to do. Collection of fines and assets due has not improved; the Legal Services Commission needs to reduce the error rate in its payment of legal aid; and good financial management must become business as usual."

 

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