Put simply, value for money is about obtaining the maximum benefit with the resources available. Decisions about value for money are a daily reality in all our lives, especially in these straightened times. We are constantly choosing which items or services to buy, and judging the right balance for us between quality and cost.
Public services, including criminal justice services, are no different. Value for money is about achieving the right balance between economy, efficiency and effectiveness, known as the “3Es” i.e. spending less, spending well and spending wisely. It is not necessarily about taking the lowest cost option but taking the right option, balancing desired outcomes and benefits with cost.
A key challenge in delivering value for money reforms in the criminal justice sector.
Since the devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland, the criminal justice sector has been undergoing a significant and much needed programme of reform to deliver a fair, efficient and effective justice system in which the community can have confidence.
One of the biggest challenges is to deliver this reform in the context of an austere public sector budget landscape. Indeed, it is likely that these budgetary pressures will remain, and possibly increase, in the next Spending Review. So while the need for investment to deliver reform is increasing, the availability of public funding to achieve this is under pressure and likely to remain so, potentially for the next decade. In this context, the value for money of every pound spent in the sector has never been more critical or under more scrutiny.
A key challenge is the organisational structure of the criminal justice sector itself. While legally and operationally independent, criminal justice organisations work together to form an interdependent and organic ‘system’ and ‘end-to-end’ process.
Criminal justice policy is set by the Department of Justice, policing is the responsibility of the PSNI and processing of criminals through the courts is overseen by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. The Northern Ireland Prison Service and Youth Justice Agency are responsible for incarceration and rehabilitation of adult and youth offenders respectively. The Probation board is responsible for working to rehabilitate offenders when in prison as well as supervision of offenders upon release. All contribute to the same desired outcome of a fair, just and safer society.
As an organic system, any change in one part has a direct consequence in other parts of the criminal justice system. For example, optimising the process around developing quality case files by the PSNI has a ‘knock-on’ benefit for the processing of offenders through the courts. Investment or change that results in faster processing through the courts results in less time spent on remand by prisoners, less need for remand places and faster access to justice. The same is true of the impacts of reform in the sector.
How can the value for money of criminal justice reforms be maximised?
KPMG research and evidence derived from working with criminal justice agencies in the UK and internationally has shown that taking a ‘systemic’ or ‘end- to-end’ view of the costs and benefits of reform can help to ensure that investment is targeted in the right places to maximise value for money.
For example, working with a UK police force, KPMG identified opportunities for improvements in the quality of Case Management Records (CMRs) which in turn resulted in a more efficient and effective prosecution, trial and sentencing process, increasing early guilty pleas by 12 percent. This reduced the average amount of days at trial from 110 to 70 days and reducing failed trials by 86 percent, delivering savings of £3.6m per annum.
Such targeting of initiatives has been shown to deliver the most ‘bang for the taxpayer’s buck’ because it takes account of the outcomes, costs and benefits of reform, irrespective of the part of the criminal justice sector on which they fall.
Critically, this approach offers the best prospects for improving front line services and justice outcomes, while also delivering financial savings across the system and at a time when maximising value for money is essential.
Associate Director, KPMG
Tel: 028 9089 3718
Report sponsored by G4S