25 November 2005
An independent report into the cost of legal investigations and court cases handled by the Law Officers Department has found that, in the past, inadequate processes were in place to ensure best value for money, but that significant steps have since been taken to improve budgetary controls.
The report was carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO), at the request of the Finance and Economics Committee. It follows a decision by the States in July 2004 to support a proposition brought by Deputy Alan Breckon to investigate the increase in court and case costs and the legal fees paid to professional services firm Mourant du Feu and Jeune for its work in the Les Pas case.
The 40 page report finds that since the Les Pas case, which ran for 14 years between 1989 and 2003, substantial improvements in processes have already been put in place. These improvements were based on the recommendations of an Audit Committee report, published in 2003, which also examined increasing court and case costs.
Finance and Economics Committee President Senator Terry Le Sueur said: “The National Audit Office report criticises inadequate processes that were in place in the past, but steps had already been taken to improve budgetary controls and I am quite sure that the examples picked up in this report would not and could not happen today.”
The National Audit Office report points to a dramatic rise in the number of complex investigations and prosecutions since 1998. Senator Le Sueur said: “This increase in legal activity is one of the side effects of Jersey’s position as a highly reputable international financial services centre. New legislation and powers, introduced to prevent fraud and money laundering, have inevitably placed an increased burden on the Law Officers Department, the police, and the Judicial Greffe. No-one could suggest that this work should not take place, as it is crucial to our reputation in this challenging global industry.
“However, what is now clear is that when the amount of professional work did dramatically increase, the necessary administrative processes that would have assured best value for money were not in place. Following the findings of the 2003 Audit Committee report, significant improvements to processes were carried out, and furthermore, an action plan has been produced to act on the recommendations of the National Audit Office report.