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Payment for Legal Aid Work

General
Commission fee scales
How to bill the Commission - Certificate of commitment
One bill per certificate
Unused commitment
How the Commission pays you
Your final report

General

The Commission will only pay for work which has been authorised. Authorisation is in the form of a certificate of commitment. The bottom of that certificate forms the tax invoice. In the ordinary course, therefore, certificates are a reliable cumulative record of the maximum we can pay you. If you do not have a certificate, you cannot bill us and we will not pay.

If, in an emergency or short notice situation, you have arranged a conditional grant of aid by telephone or fax, a certificate of commitment should follow by post once the application for aid has been received and processed. If you have not received a certificate within a couple of weeks of submitting the application, write to the assigning officer.

Normally, if prior approval has not been sought, the Commission will decline to meet those additional costs. However, in rare and exceptional circumstances, (and solely at the Commission's discretion), where the Commission has approved a grant of aid, and is aware of the matter in general, it may subsequently approve and pay costs for an item, or items, not prior approved.

If your client is initially refused aid, but this decision is later reversed on reconsideration or appeal, aid is granted as if from the date of the original decision. This does not apply, of course, if aid is initially refused, but later granted on a new application.

Commission fee scales

The Commission's scales of fees payable for legally aided work are set out in the Cost Scales contained on this site. The sums expressed are GST exclusive. The Commission will pay you GST at 10% in addition to the GST exclusive sum claimed. It is a condition of a grant of aid that the practitioner will be paid on the applicable legal aid scale and not on the scale set by the court concerned, or any other. Scales are reviewed from time to time by the Commission and you will be notified of any changes.

The Commission's policy applicable to work done on or after a revised scale of fees comes into operation is expressed: - "All new i.e. initial grants of aid and extensions approved on or after _ _ _ (effective date) will be made in accordance with the following scale".

Private practitioners usually opt to complete the approved work included in Certificates of Commitment granted before the fee rise, at the old rate, and do not seek an extension to the new rate.

The Commission does not unilaterally offer the new rate where a practitioner has elected to bill the work at the old rate, i.e. where an extension is neither sought nor granted. However, where a practitioner seeks an extension, (as per the definition preceding the scales) to be upgraded to the new rates, and sets out the proportion of work to be undertaken after the salient date, the practitioner is entitled to the extension, unless in the opinion of the Commission, all the work has in fact been completed before the effective date of the fee increase.

If an extension is granted, the new rates apply.

How to bill the Commission - Certificate of commitment

There is no need for you to draw a bill. You are sent an original certificate of commitment/tax invoice. When the work is done, please complete (including a GST calculation at 10% of the claimed fees), sign and return the tax invoice with your letter of report. Your signature attests that the work has been done. This is your tax invoice. We do not pay on any other form of invoice. A sample certificate of commitment can be downloaded here.

When to submit tax invoices

Clause 2.10 of the Panel Agreement provides for practitioners to submit tax invoices to the Commission for work in respect of which a commitment certificate has been issued within three months of the conclusion of the work to which the commitment certificate relates.  Clause 3.2 of the Agreement provides that the Commission may decline to pay an invoice submitted after that time and that the Commission will not pay an invoice submitted more than six months after that time unless authorised by the Director.

The Commission has resolved that an amnesty period will be granted to practitioners until 1 January 2015 to submit tax invoices for work completed more than three months earlier but not yet billed to the Commission, provided that the invoices do not relate to services undertaken more than six years prior to the date of the relevant commitment certificate.

One bill per certificate

You will not normally be able to bill until you have used up the whole commitment certificate. Howver if there is more than one item on the certificate, you may bill on an interim basis for the item that has been completed. You can then claim the remainder of the certificate once the other work has been completed. 

If difficulties arise with payment of counsel, for example in a part-heard matter, you should raise this with the assigning officer concerned.

Occasionally, for accounting reasons, we may have to ask you to interim bill us for part of the work certified. This will be rare and we will write to you if it arises.

Unused commitment

It may happen that a case is completed without all the commitment being used, for instance where charges are withdrawn. In that case, when the work is completed, you should on the tax invoice you complete, bill us for the actual work done, as per the scale.

It may also happen that commitment is not taken up, for instance where the client abandons the case or fails to keep in contact with you. In this case, we need to know so that we cancel the certificate/tax invoice and allocate that commitment elsewhere.

How the Commission pays you

Your certificate/tax invoice is checked by the assigning officer and, if correct, certified for payment. Practitioners are paid by electronic funds transfer to their firm account each month. If any part of your bill is disallowed, a brief explanation will accompany payment. If you think your bill has been wrongly disallowed or reduced, you can seek more information from the assigning officer, and/or appeal to Commissioners.

Payments outside the monthly transfer will not normally be made. If a practitioner believes that there are such exceptional circumstances prevailing that an EFT outside the normal run should be requested, then such requests should be made to the Director, Deputy Director, or Assignments Manager who are the only authorised officers to consider such requests.

Your final report

At the conclusion of the matter, you are requested to render all outstanding invoices, and provide a short report as to how the matter has concluded. In criminal matters we need to know the court in which the charges were finalised, the legal outcome and the reason for finalisation. Case Finalisation Forms are provided under Forms & Letters and may be used as your final report in criminal matters resolved in the Magistrates Court or the Youth Court.