Serbia Justice Functional Review

Internal Performance Assessment > Governance and Management

Chapter Summary

  1. Effective management of the judicial system is hindered by difficulties in measuring system performance. Data are scattered across fragmented information systems with gaps, overlaps, and inconsistencies. Data collection tends to be manual, which absorbs a lot of time and staff resources and is prone to errors. Reports are not often tailored to management needs, and so do not adequately inform decision-making. Analytical capacity across the sector is inadequate, and so the foundation for management decisions remains weak. There is not a single management entity in the system able to substantiate how the system actually performs or use data to identify areas for performance improvement. The system lacks a unified vision of what good performance should look like, or a performance framework around which stakeholders unite to set goals and targets. As a result, it is very difficult for the system to manage for results.
  2. Effectiveness in strategic management is limited. The adoption of the NJRS 2013-2018 and its Action Plan represents a significant milestone for the Serbian judiciary. Their content is comprehensive, and progress is being made against several milestones. However, the Action Plan may be overly ambitious and it will be difficult to implement effectively within the five-year timeframe. The NJRS also focuses heavily on enacting legislation more than ensuring the effective implementation of existing and new legislation to change behavior on the ground. Yet the latter is the more important task and it requires an organizational and managerial approach more than a legal one. The NJRS and Action Plan also lack a clear focus on how reforms will affect court users, who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of the reforms. A Strategy Implementation Commission exists, but lacks a work plan and a secretariat and is not driving reform implementation. In the resulting vacuum, it is not clear among the many fragmented stakeholders who is leading the system’s reform effort or driving for performance improvement. At this rate, at best by 2018 Serbia may have enacted relevant legislation but behaviors will not have changed and performance will not have improved on the ground.
  3. A range of key governance and management functions are currently being transferred between various bodies. In the past, these functions were almost entirely entrusted to the MOJ. In the somewhat poorly sequenced and inconsistently implemented transition towards more responsibility for the HJC and SPC, some fragmentation, overlaps and redundancies have occurred and impeded the effective management of system performance. Moving towards the full transition of responsibilities, it will be important to adequately prepare the Councils for their new functions by the end of 2015.
  4. Limited management capacity in the Councils hinders their ability to meet the challenges ahead. Each Council has established an organizational plan and taken steps to implement it. Each is able to administer only their most basic requirements. The Administrative Office of the HJC is already sizeable, but many positions are held by junior clerical staff and lawyers who see their roles in narrow terms. The Councils lack managerial capacities to drive performance improvements across the sector. For example, neither institution currently has a system to evaluate or re-engineer work processes, even though such work will be critical to improving system productivity.
  5. The internal organization within courts needs to be improved if the system is to reach and sustain higher levels of performance. To date, the Councils have undertaken little work to assess whether the internal organization of each court or PPO is optimal. No analysis has been conducted on how organizational variations affect productivity or other aspects of performance. The Councils do not carry out process re-engineering to produce high-quality outputs more rapidly, with less effort, and at lower costs. The Court Book of Rules provides extensive guidance, but it is outmoded. Current efforts to update the Book of rules are focused narrowly on the minimum requirements to comply with the new procedural codes, suggesting that reformers are yet to appreciate the significant benefits to be reaped by simplifying and modernizing processes. Individual Court Presidents use their own systems based on personal initiative or with the support of donors. A simple case-weighting system would assist to equalize caseloads and manage workloads, but much can be done in the meantime through effective monitoring of data from existing systems.
  6. Inside each court, the managerial abilities of Court Presidents are pivotal to success. Stakeholders report that the performance of an individual court depends largely on its Court President’s enthusiasm and willingness to address management issues. However, most Court Presidents have received no training on management and few incentives exist to encourage a modern and proactive approach to management. Courts lack specialized staff to assist in management tasks and often lack basic management tools. Greater use of managerial reports from the various case management systems, in particular the analysis of Ageing Lists, would assist greatly. The higher performing Court Presidents each seem to have cultivated in an ad hoc manner a small managerial team of skilled mid-level professionals who support him/her to run the court. This model seems to work well and could be replicated. Court Presidents also rarely meet with each other – they could benefit greatly from colloquia aimed at sharing information, generating ideas and replicating innovations.
  7. A core task for governance and management bodies is to ensure the appropriate mix of system resources to enable performance. In Serbia, neither the MOJ nor the Councils have developed the capacity to consider and program resources jointly. This has led to a resource mix that is currently inadequate to bring the system in compliance with EU accession requirements. Continued fragmentation exacerbates this challenge resulting in suboptimal coordination and management of resources, as well as resource planning. When there is a common view, it reveals a strong bias toward adding judges and assistants, while the provision for much-needed provision for other resources is not sufficiently prioritized. To enable transformation, the resource mix must favor spending on ICT, infrastructure, training and innovation, while reducing spending on the large wage bill, particularly on judges and low-skilled ancillary staff. This will require a series of calibrated decisions by the governance and management bodies.
  8. The mechanisms to govern integrity and conflicts of interest are not fully able to address a perceived lack of integrity in the judicial system. Serbia’s random case assignment technology works well to reduce predictability in the assignment of individual cases to specific judges. However, not all courts use the functionality, and those Court Presidents who do use it overrule the system relatively frequently. There is no corresponding technology for allocating files randomly within PPOs. Integrity Plans have been prepared only for some parts of the judiciary. Formal rules on gift-giving to judges, prosecutors, and staff are clear. Yet gift-giving remains prevalent. Complaints are numerous, but grievance redress is scarce. Lessons learned from complaints do not systematically feed these into reform processes.