The Ministry of Justice has been criticised for failing to properly track expenditure on major projects intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the courts.
Auditor General Greg Schollum identified projects including video conferencing, centralised administration and online fine dispute resolution as three key areas that had not properly been tracked by the Ministry in terms of the money spent, saying there were “significant weaknesses” in the Ministry’s tracking of the expenditure.
The Ministry this year has a budget of almost $146 million to spend on core, court services and Justice Minister Andrew Little has said while there were difficulties in tracking the effectiveness of such expenditure, it was still necessary to do so properly to ensure the benefits to ‘court users’ were being achieved.
The Ministry was audited in 2015 when the report showed “it (the Ministry) had an inability to scope,
manage and monitor some significant projects.”
The Auditor’s report indicated that while court services had improved, the Ministry had shown that it was not capable of achieving the return on its investment that it should have done due to its inability to properly track the effectiveness of money already spent.
It also noted that the Ministry had a limited ability to receive feedback from those most affected by the projects that the Ministry invested in.
Ministry chief Andrew Bridgman disagreed with aspects of the report and the criticism levelled at the Ministry saying Justice was not just about ‘return on investment’.
For instance, he noted that video links resulted in 25 per cent fewer prisoner escorts in 2015 and of the 25,000 online fine dispute applications made the same year, 98 per cent were resolved within 24 hours.