19 July 2012

Working together to build on our successes in reducing payment mistakes

Our efforts in working with providers to reduce common errors in making payment claims won praise recently from the National Audit Office (NAO).

We need to continue with the "significant improvements" which were noted by the head of the NAO, Amyas Morse.

Despite our successes the NAO remains concerned about the level of error rate.

Two of the biggest areas of concern are:

  • Disbursements
  • Work not evidenced correctly

If we can work together on these two issues we can go a long way to improving respect for the integrity of the legal aid fund.

We will look at the issue of 'claiming incorrect fees' in the next issue of LSC Update.

Disbursements

Travel costs above £20 have to be supported by vouchers or similar evidence.

Examples where we did not have the necessary documentation included:

  • car parking charges
  • full breakdown of mileage claims including ensuring the mileage being claimed accurately reflected the journey(s) undertaken
  • a justification for the use of private vehicle because public transport was not considered appropriate

In addition to these issues in one case we looked at an advocate had incorrectly claimed for travel expenses to a Crown Court where a local chambers already existed.

In another instance an advocate had over-claimed on mileage because we could only allow for the distance to the nearest chambers to be claimed.

These may seem trivial matters and we acknowledge we have a role to play in ensuring the necessary documentation is submitted as appropriate.

But even small payments which are disallowed because they are not properly evidenced can have a significant impact on our error rates.

Work not evidenced properly

It is vital all providers continue to submit all the necessary documentary evidence to support the work claimed for in their submissions.

This applies as much to CDS7s as it does to AGFS claims. For AGFS it remains important for there to be supporting evidence for Pages of Prosecution Evidence.

Further information

LSC Website: Standard Criminal Contract Part B

LSC Website: Criminal Bills Assessment Manual

LSC Website: Advocate Graduated Fee Scheme Guidance 2011

LSC Website: Litigator Graduated Fee Scheme Guidance February 2011

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