The Ministry of Justice does not understand the cost of prison

New report reveals that lack of financial controls at the ministry could be affecting services.

The National Audit Office has conducted an investigation into the way the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) administers its finances and found that its operations are not up to scratch. The problem areas, according to the report, are the MoJ's understanding of its costs, lack of consistency in its financial approach, and a feeble commitment to "a clear, comprehensive action plan". Although the situation is improving, it says there is still a long way to go.

However, the report also contains a dire warning of how poor financial management could be affecting its services:

The Ministry does not understand the costs of its activities within prisons, the probation service, and the courts in sufficient detail. This reduces the Ministry's ability to allocate resources on the basis of relative financial and operational performance of individual prisons, probation services and courts.

Given the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's recent high-profile announcement that he will seek to reform the way prison works, the "financial pressures" on the MoJ that the report identifies are not likely to go away as it tackles new policy and new ways of distributing funding. With the additional burden of finding spending cuts, the task for the MoJ is not going to get any easier.

Targeting funding at specific prisons, courts and services is going to become even more important as budgets are slashed. We need to be confident that the MoJ is up to the task of maintaining services in difficult financial circumstances, and this report casts grave doubts on its ability to do so.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump is definitely the Republican presidential candidate

Previously unpledged delegates have revealed their support for the billionaire, taking him past the delegate tally required.

Donald Trump has attained the number of delegates required to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. According to Associated Press, Trump has reached 1,238 delegates, one more than needed to secure his place as the Republican candidate in November’s general election.

Trump has been the presumptive Republican nominee since early May, when his last remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich suspended their campaigns. Still, with five primaries still to come and some delegates not required to reveal their preference until the Republican national convention in July, Trump was not quite over the line.

Associated Press has calculated that Trump is in fact now secure as nominee after speaking to previously unpledged delegates who revealed their support for the bombastic billionaire. Trump, whose candidacy was initially seen as a publicity stunt, has so far come top in 34 of the primary and caucus contests.  

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has vowed to continue to pursue the party’s presidential nomination to the party’s convention, where delegates are officially allocated and the party’s candidate declared. However, Sanders currently has the support of just 1,539 delegates compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2,305, with 2,383 needed for the nomination. 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.