The New Zealand Law Society says it supports the objective of minor changes proposed to the legal aid audit policy, of improving efficiency and adding value to the legal aid audit programme.
The Law Society has provided comments on a Ministry of Justice consultation document, Proposed changes to the legal aid audit policy to enable greater use of on-site audits. The ministry says the changes would enable more flexible use of on-site audits within the standard annual audit programme.
In its comments, the Law Society agrees that the proposed changes will remove the inference that on-site audits are solely associated with serious quality concerns, as is the current practice under a special audit.
"The audit and monitoring policy and terms of reference provide a general overview of the audit process and the auditor's role, but it would be helpful to provide more information so that legal aid providers can understand how the on-site audit process will work in practice," it says.
"It would be useful for the policy and terms of reference to clearly state the purpose of the on-site interview and its parameters (such as timing and duration of the interview, and whether there are limits on the right of reply/correction), so that providers and auditors have a clear understanding of the process."
The objective should be for the on-site interview to be a fair and impartial process that preserves natural jsutice rights while maintaining the auditor's independence to assess the quality and value of the legal aid work, the Law Society says.