Lawyers appointed to Legal Aid NSW panels may be audited by Legal Aid NSW under Section 52B(1) of the Legal Aid Commission Act, 1979 (NSW) (the Act). Any one or more of the following may be audited:
- claims for payment
- compliance with practice standards
- compliance with the terms and conditions of a service provision agreement
- compliance with Legal Aid NSW guidelines, policies and delegations
- substantial or unresolved complaints concerning service delivery
Audits are conducted by staff in the Professional Practices.
Panel lawyer audit strategy
The Legal Aid NSW audit strategy for panel lawyers has been reviewed. A new audit strategy is now in place affective from 1 July 2014.
These audits validate specific requirements applicable to claims or means test. Panel lawyers are asked to provide supporting documentation to validate a requirement for current or finalised matters. The majority of audits undertaken by Professional Practices are spot check audits.
These audits are more comprehensive and look at an entire matter. Panel lawyers are asked to produce complete files in legally aided matters. Audits include all claims and issues and will be based on the file, any other information that the private lawyer supplies and any other information that is available to Professional Practices as a result of investigations, e.g. court listing information.
A number of areas may be targeted for audit. Such areas include but are not limited to:
All claims may be audited. However from time to time, audits may focus on the following types of claims:
- claims submitted immediately following the issuing of a grant before the work has been performed
- claims for the full amount granted, particularly for variable unit claims
- claims for work done that does not appear to have been done
- claims for a higher than average amount per grant
- increases in the total amount claimed by a firm in a given period
- legally aided matters that relate to complaints made against a lawyer
- lawyers found to be non-compliant in previous audits
- substantial complaints concerning service delivery
- means verification for the legally aided person and any financially associated person, in line with requirements under the Means Test Policy at section 7.11.2.
- random selection including by location, jurisdiction, claim type or work item type
- private lawyers total legal aid earnings
In the event that an audit identifies a breach of the practice standards, service agreement or Legal Aid NSW policies and guidelines, a range of sanctions may be considered, depending on the severity of the non-compliance. Sanctions may include:
- Warning letters
- Further audits
- Refund of claims
- Added level of checking of claims by the Grants Division
- Referral to the Monitoring Committee which can result in removal or suspension from the panel
- Removal from the panel under s52B(11) of the Act for failure to comply with the request for audit
- Ceasing the assignment of legal aid work
- Referral to the Legal Services Commissioner, NSW Bar Association or Law Society of NSW
Ongoing audit activity
Professional Practices will continue to provide regular updates in relation to ongoing audit activity in the monthly newsletter, Legal Aid News.
Interim spot check audit reports
Interim reports on the main spot check audit findings for the following spot check audits are available for the information of panel lawyers:
- Spot check audits on variable unit claims (2013)
- Spot check audits on claims for commercial agent fees and conduct money (2014)
For further information in relation to audit contact the Senior Audit and Review Officer by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.