Legal Agent Account Verification Process
5. Observations – Processing of legal agent accounts for payment
5.1 Account Payment Process
The payment process for legal agent accounts could be improved.
During the audit we identified two issues that would improve the processing of legal agent accounts: a requirement to use the standard transmittal letter to ensure that consistent and correct information can easily be identified by PPSC and client departments, and the need for LPMC to receive confirmation that transactions have been entered into the IFMS.
Legal agents use their own invoice forms when submitting accounts for payment. As a result, the presentation and level of detail of the information on taxed accounts that are forwarded to PPSC and client departments varies widely. Some invoices may include as many as 30 pages of detailed charges. The variations could lead to errors when the invoice data is entered into the IFMS by PPSC or reviewed for payment by the client. In our view, the use of the standard transmittal form that presents the key information from the account would simplify data capture and improve data integrity.
There is no means by which LPMC or instructing counsel in the regional portfolios can know whether a legal agent account has been entered into the Justice IFMS. Most instructing counsel do not have access to IFMS and therefore cannot confirm that legal agent accounts forwarded to PPSC have been entered in the IFMS. Furthermore, PPSC does not confirm with regional portfolios that legal agent accounts have been received and entered into the Justice IFMS. Consequently, when a report from IFMS is produced, LPMC cannot be certain that the information is up-to-date; that all legal agent accounts taxed have been submitted to PPSCand that those received have been input; or that the accounts entered are accurate. A procedure should be established that would allow regional portfolios to routinely confirm that information sent to PPSC has been accurately entered in the IFMS in a timely fashion.
Recommendation and Management Response
9. It is recommended that the Director, LPMC discuss with the Chief Financial Officer opportunities to improve the payment process. (Medium Risk)
Agreed. The LPMC has discussed the payment process with the CFOB and some initiatives have already been identified to improve the payment process.
The function pertaining to the processing for payment of Justice-paid legal agent accounts, currently being performed by PPSC on behalf of Justice Canada, will be transferred to Justice Canada operations effective May 31, 2011. This will enable Justice Canada to exercise control over the timely payment of the accounts that are the responsibility of the Department.
The requirement to use a standard transmittal form that presents key information from the legal agent account to simplify the data capture and improve data integrity does exist, but compliance by regional offices and legal services units must be encouraged and monitored. The LPMC will make the use of the transmittal form mandatory as part of the review of the taxation procedures and resulting Directive referenced in our response to Recommendation 1.
The LPMC will be developing service standards expected of instructing counsel in completing the taxation process and implementing the requirement for compliance by June 30, 2011, as described in our response to Recommendation 5.
Discussion of opportunities with CFOB: Completed
Transfer of functions from PPSCto Justice Canada: May 31, 2011
Implementation of taxation service standards: June 30, 2011
Review of taxation procedures and drafting of Directive: March 31, 2012
Implementation of the Directive and related training: June 30, 2012
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