The justice ministry needs to develop a reliable internal audit system for receipts and payments, the Audit Office said in a report released Tuesday.

The dossier covered the justice ministry’s financial transactions for fiscal year 2022. Having examined a sample of transactions, the government watchdog found “weaknesses in terms of compliance with the relevant laws and regulations [regarding spending]” and recommended that the ministry beef up its internal checks.

The auditor-general flagged irregularities with the disbursement of down payments for programmes related to the National Mechanism for Women’s Rights. Such payments were made without the supporting documentation having been filed for actual expenditures carried out.

As such, the watchdog recommends that the ministry consider taking legal action against recipients of these state funds – including organisations and individuals. And in cases where beneficiaries also receive an annual state grant, the Audit Office recommends deducting the amount of the down payment given from the next state grant.

The auditor-general tracked one case of a grant under the National Mechanism for Women’s Rights where the invoices submitted did not indicate the name or address of the supplier. Nevertheless, the invoices were accepted. Also, there were cases where invoices submitted by beneficiaries did not bear the date of receipt.

Elsewhere the report noted that parole supervisors have several parolees under their responsibility, causing them to work too many hours a month – which in turn affects their performance. On this, the Audit Office recommends setting a maximum number of parolees per supervisor.

Another issue flagged concerned the lack of a certificate for a building being leased by the justice ministry.

The owner of the building has not carried out the necessary modifications to secure the required certificate. Here, the report noted that the use of buildings lacking a final certificate of approval constitutes a criminal offence – for which both the owner and the tenant are liable.

Regarding the fire service, the auditor-general found that the department has yet to appoint dedicated functionaries who would check invoices before moneys are paid out. Instead, the checks continue to be carried out by a senior fire officer.

On the prisons – which also come under the justice ministry – the report noted a discrepancy between the individual amounts in inmates’ accounts and the total amount reported to the state treasury.

“Since 2015 accounting errors in the balances of individual accounts of inmates remain undefined/unspecified, which we consider alarming, given that in the past there have been incidents of abuse in the accounts in question,” the Audit Office said.

Meantime overpayments are being made to two prison guards who have since retired. The ministry contacted the two prison guards to make the necessary corrections, but the two guards have not responded.

Regarding the police force, the report noted that it published a separate report for the department in November 2023.