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NAO slams 'redundant' MoJ finance systems

Confusing mishmash

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A new National Audit Office report says that financial management at the Ministry of Justice is being hampered by unnecessary data systems.

The department has a legacy of multiple data systems that make it less able to monitor its financial position and produce accurate and up-to-date reports, according to the document.

Published on 6 July 2010, it says the ministry's headquarters shares the Aramis financial system with HM Courts Service, the Tribunals Service and other smaller organisations.

Meanwhile, the National Offender Management Service uses a separate system known as Phoenix, and the other bodies under the ministry's umbrella operate separate data systems.

The MoJ is working on the integration of all its financial data on a single system by 2013, and the NAO believes the consolidation will provide for more effective monitoring of financial performance across the MoJ's delivery bodies.

But the report says that the ministry's financial management systems and processes are still falling short of best practice and it has yet to commit to a clear plan for the delivery of improvements. It calls on the MoJ to set out a strategy for financial management improvements within the next four months.

It also identifies weaknesses in the quality of information held on an HR database. Although the MoJ recently improved its HR information and is able to monitor its staff numbers centrally, the NAO found that managers still use their own processes to monitor the numbers of staff in their area of responsibility.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The financial management of the Ministry of Justice, both at its headquarters and its arm's length bodies, has improved but it falls short of established best practice in three significant areas.

"The ministry does not have a consistent financial management approach, lacks a full understanding of the costs of its operational activities and policies and has yet to integrate its financial systems and processes, reducing its ability to monitor its overall budgetary position.

"Without improvements in these areas, 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."

In 2008-09 the MoJ was responsible for more than £10bn of expenditure and administered £37bn of grants to the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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