moj nao 18
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

The Ministry of Justice is under pressure

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The National Audit Office's departmental review of the MoJ shows the extent of the problems it faces.

The Ministry of Justice invests a considerable amount of resources in the performance management of the prisons, probation providers and courts under its control.

However, the Department itself is also subject to scrutiny and last week (26 October 2018), the National Audit Office published its departmental overview of the MoJ.

These overviews are designed to provide a quick and accessible overview of the Department and its performance over the last year. The report focuses on the Department’s responsibilities and how it spends its money, key developments in its areas of work and findings from our recent reports.

The short, infographic-heavy, report includes some interesting information, which I share below.

Where the MoJ spends its money

The Ministry’s total operating expenditure in 2017-18 was £10 billion, with income of £1.9 billion reducing
the final net public expenditure to £8.1 billion.

Major programmes

The MoJ is managing 11 major projects including:

  • The Prison Estate Transformation Programme
  • The Electronic Monitoring Programme
  • The Courts modernisation programme
  • The Probation Programme (early termination of CRC contracts & re-design of TR)

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority provides Delivery Confidence Assessment for all projects on the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP). This is an evaluation of each project’s likelihood of achieving its aims and objectives on time and on budget. It refers to a fixed point in time, using a fivepoint scale: Red, AmberRed, Amber, AmberGreen and Green.

9 of the 11 MoJ projects are rated Amber or Amber-Red.


At the 2015 spending review, the MoJ was set the target of reducing its spending by £500m or 15% by 2019/20. However, this year it is on course to spend £1.1 billion more than its target.

The table below shows spending between 2011/12 and 2017/18 (the 2011/12 figures are adjusted to 2017/18 figures so the spending changes are presented in real terms). As you can see, most of the pain has been felt by Legal Aid and the courts.

The NAO overview concludes by highlighting key challenges ahead for the MoJ which include:

  • Prison safety
  • The condition of the prison estate
  • Difficulties recruiting new members of the judiciary
  • Re-designing TR and improving probation performance
  • The review of the parole process
  • The delayed implementation of the new electronic monitoring service

We may have to wait another two years to see how the MoJ fares on its next National Audit Office report card.


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