MoJ's financial management still needs to improve, says NAO

5 Jul 10
Financial management at the Ministry of Justice continues to be inconsistent, the National Audit Office said today

By Vivienne Russell

6 July 2010

Financial management at the Ministry of Justice continues to be inconsistent, the National Audit Office said today.

Understanding of costs and the integration of financial management systems and processes were also found to fall short of best practice.

In a report published today, the NAO acknowledges that the ministry has improved its financial management, chiefly by establishing a value-for-money improvement committee, but says it still needs to set out clearly how it intends to achieve its objectives.

The auditors noted that financial management was hampered by the differing approaches adopted in the ministry’s various arm’s-length bodies, particularly the National Offender Management Service. The lack of integration makes it difficult for the MoJ to monitor the full range of financial and operational risks.

A further criticism was the ministry’s failure to understand in sufficient detail the costs of its activities in prisons, the probation service and courts. Programmes are under way to rectify this in Noms and the Courts Service, which could generate significant operational benefits and savings, but they are not due to be completed until 2012 at the earliest.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: ‘Without improvements in [the areas identified], the ministry will not be able to make informed decisions on relative operational performance, affecting its ability to deliver the sustainable efficiencies that are needed in the current constrained spending environment.

‘The ministry has yet to produce a clear timetable for the delivery of its financial management. This timetable needs to be established with urgency and we recommend that it is put in place within the next four months.’

An MoJ spokeswoman said: ‘The department welcomes the NAO report on financial management within the organisation. We also welcome the fact that the NAO recognises the progress which has been made in regard to financial management.

‘We acknowledge the areas for improvement identified by the NAO and we are considering them carefully before we agree on an action plan to address them.’

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