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Spot check audits on variable unit claims

Variable unit claims Progress update October 2013

On 27 June 2013 we commenced spot check audits on variable unit claims.

Between July and October the Professional Practices Branch (PPB) of Legal Aid NSW has spot check audited 76 panel lawyers and 465 variable unit claims across four different panels.  Since the audit checks commenced we have requested $23,816 inc GST in refunds.

So far, the checks show that:

  • One in three claims did not comply with any one or more of the following:
  • PPB have issued requests for refunds to date totaling $23,816 inc GST as a result of unsubstantiated claims
  • Panel lawyers who have been advised that refunds are required have been requested to submit an adjustment for the requested amount via Grants Online OR provide submissions and further information in support of their claim by the specified date
  • The four main non-compliances identified are:
    • Claims made before the work was completed
      Claims should only be submitted for work completed. Full claims on variable unit invoices should not be made unless the hours claimed reflect the work completed at the time the claim is made.
    • Over claims or excess hours claimed
      Only the actual time spent appearing in court should be claimed, to the nearest half hour.
    • Work claimed for was completed prior to the aid effective date
      Legal Aid NSW does not pay for any legal expenses incurred before the aid effective date.
    • Insufficient records of court attendances
      A record of court attendances must be retained on file for audit purposes. These requirements are clarified under File Management in the Legal Aid NSW Practice Standards for all areas of law. To assist lawyers with recording the necessary information, the Court attendance form criminal and family may be retained on legally aided files and used to record work performed. These details are also required for attendances at dispute resolution conferences, including Family Dispute Resolution.

The main non-compliance findings are broken down as follows:

Main non-compliances

Piechart showing the breakdown of non-compliance findings. Percentages are listed below. 

Insufficient record of court attendances: 55%
Claim made before work: 9%
Excess hours claimed: 22%
Work done before aid effect date: 14%

Over the coming months, in addition to finalising this round of spot checks, PPB will be conducting follow up audits on claims submitted by panel lawyers who were unable to substantiate their claims in the first round of spot check audits.

Panel lawyers are reminded where insufficient evidence is found to substantiate claims, refunds will be sought.

More information

Contact the Professional Practices Branch via email at audits@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or on (02) 9219 5784.