The Department of Justice has launched a public consultation on the most appropriate way to recover the costs of running the Court Funds Office, (CFO).
The CFO is responsible for looking after compensation awarded to minors, financial assets belonging to people who lack the capacity to manage their own affairs and money held in court pending the settlement of a civil action.
In the past, CFO recovered its running costs by using some of the interest received from investing the funds it holds. As interest rates have been low for a long time, this mechanism has led to a shortfall and the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) has met the running costs from its budget. This means that costs have been met by the taxpayer, rather than those who use the service.
Justice Minister David Ford said: “The Court Funds Office provides an invaluable service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society and I am keen to ensure that the costs of providing this service are recovered as fairly and transparently as possible. This consultation seeks views on the most appropriate way to recover the costs of running CFO.
“Being mindful of its responsibility towards clients, and in line with other areas within my Department, CFO has undertaken an efficiency review and as a result is currently implementing a more modern and efficient IT system. This will reduce CFO annual running costs by around 20%. Further opportunities to reduce costs will be implemented and the resultant benefits passed on directly to clients.”
The CFO funding issue was highlighted in a 2014 report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO), which recommended that NICTS: “…should examine the current arrangements for recovering the CFO’s costs to ensure that they are fair and equitable.”
Following consideration of this Report, the N I Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) issued a report in May 2015, which recommended: “..that the CFO establishes fair and equitable arrangements for recovering its costs from clients.”
The Department is keen to hear from all those who have an interest in this issue, including those organisations whose functions or activities include supporting those who use the Court Funds Office.
View the court fund office proposal at the consultation section
The closing date for this consultation is 5.00pm on Friday 18 September 2015.
Responses or requests for further information should be made in writing to:CFO Proposed Fee Structure Consultation
Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Services
5th Floor, Laganside House
23 – 27 Oxford Street
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