Serbia Justice Functional Review

Summary with Recommendations

d. ICT Management

Main Findings

  1. The Serbian judicial system does not yet approach ICT as a tool for transformation. Responsibility for ICT is fragmented. An overall governance group representing primary justice institutions is needed to set ICT policies, prioritize reforms, and conduct long term planning across the judicial system. Without such coordination, ICT investments decisions will be taken on an ad hoc basis and continue to be donor-driven and supplier driven.
  2. Hardware is often old; internet connections are uneven across the territory; server capabilities are weak; and many courts lack adequate scanning facilities.
    ICT is under-funded and some basic needs are not being adequately addressed. Hardware is often old; internet connections are uneven across the territory; server capabilities are weak; and many courts lack adequate scanning facilities. ICT literacy is generally low across the judiciary, and basic computer training has not been provided for judges, prosecutors and court staff. Several courts have no ICT support staff, while others do not have enough staff, or have temporary or poorly trained ICT staff. ICT staff turnover is high, and developing in-house ICT capacity will be critical to effective operations and sustainability.
  3. The judiciary relies on a variety of unlinked ICT systems for case processing, case management, and document management. The system used in Basic and Higher Courts (AVP) could readily produce greater functionality than it does currently. However, there has been no training on AVP since its rollout in 2010. Ongoing development has been limited, due to poor budgeting and lack of interest in evidence-based decision-making. New case management systems are being rolled out in different courts, and the process has been deeply fragmented. In many cases, courts continue to rely on hard copies that duplicate existing case management systems, and the systems have yet to instill changed behaviors.
  4. The AVP system could readily produce greater functionality than it does. However, there has been no training on AVP since its rollout in 2010.
    Automated information exchange is extremely limited across the sector. The exchange of documents between lower and higher courts, between courts and PPOs, and between courts and external institutions (such as police and prisons) is almost entirely manual, resulting in significant inefficiencies, errors, and delays in case processing and delays in receiving funds owed to the court or other parties. Furthermore, ICT remains largely unexplored for sharing information on court practice, accessing services, or facilitating the exchange of documents between legal professionals and the courts.
  5. The judicial system is caught in a ‘vendor lock-in’, where excessive dependence on vendors has heightened costs and risks and undermined in-house capacity. Vendors are currently responsible for critical tasks throughout the judiciary, from development through to maintenance, and vendors own and control the data. Contracts favor the vendors, in large part because they were not subject to careful negotiation.
  6. Courts, PPOs and the Councils need meaningful, accurate, and timely statistics generated by the case management system to become more effective in managing overall system performance. In recent years, significant improvements have been made, particularly to case management systems, and the Serbian judiciary is now a relatively data-rich environment. Data quality varies but is sufficiently reliable to inform decision-making.103 Yet, data collection requires substantial manual effort, which is time-consuming,inefficient, and prone to errors.104 This negatively affects daily operations and inhibits the much-needed transition to evidence-based decision-making in the sector.

Recommendation 41:
Develop more robust ICT governance structures to ensure future investments target justice sector goals and meet business needs.
105 Activities should commence in the short term and require few costs:

  • Establish a strategic cross-institutional ICT Governance Group to include senior managers of relevant institutions. (MOJ, HCC, SCC, SPC, RPPO – short term) Establish an Operational Data Working Group that sits as a second tier in the ICT governance structure to enable front-line managers and staff to provide input to information management reforms. (ICT Governance Group – short term)
  • Establish an Operational Data Working Group that sits as a second tier in the ICT governance structure to enable front-line managers and staff to provide input to information management reforms. (ICT Governance Group – short term)
  • Establish a technical working group of ICT staff across the sector to discuss detailed aspects of rollout.

Recommendation 42:
To enhance ICT funding: conduct a cross-judiciary technology architecture assessment; establish a long-range budget plan to sustain automation initiatives; and conduct cost- benefit and total cost of ownership (TCO) analyses for all proposed projects.
106 Costs would be moderate and additional staffing may be required. Activities could begin immediately, but build in the medium term:

  • Conduct a Technology Architecture Assessment to assess the current technology environment across all judicial sector institutions, and develop a blueprint of future Target State Technology architecture including a transition strategy, roadmap, and solution architecture. (MOJ ICT division and Architecture Consultancy – short term, endorsed by ICT Governance Group)
  • Establish a defined methodology for conducting business case analyses for proposed projects and analyzing their likely total cost of operations. (ICT Governance Group – short term)
  • Create a complete inventory of ICT hardware and software assets, and ICT HR capacities in the judiciary beginning with information in BPMIS. (MOJ – medium term)
  • Based on the inventory, develop a sector-wide long-range ICT budget plan. (ICT Governance Group in cooperation with MOF – medium term)
  • Review future donor-funded proposals to determine TCO and assess whether the life-cycle costs can be supported with available funding. (MOJ – medium term)

Recommendation 43:
Invest in some ICT management capability, particularly in contact negotiation and oversight.
107 Effective contract management would increase value for money and reduce excessive, costly reliance on ICT vendors (vendor lock-in). Beginning immediately, contract arrangements for ICT vendor support should be more explicit and benefit the State more. Analysis of services to be brought in-house should begin in the medium term. These activities are likely to result in cost savings, particularly in light of moderate upfront investment in contract analysis and negotiation.

  • Negotiate the terms of future ICT contracts to ensure that the judiciary, and not vendors, own the data and control ICT operations. As they come due, re-negotiate service-level agreements to specify key details.108 (ICT Governance Group, Directorate for E-Government, Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government – medium term)
  • Evaluate which ICT services should be brought in-house by preparing feasibility and cost studies comparing vendor and government-provided services. (ICT Governance Group – medium term)
  • Create a disaster recovery site for data collected by courts and prosecutors. (MOJ – medium term)

Recommendation 44:
Develop a cadre of well-trained local ICT staff with defined responsibilities.
109 Even with more robust central ICT support services, individual courts require local ICT staff for front-line support which, if not rectified can reduce employee effectiveness and inhibit service delivery. Most of the recommendations in this section can be expected to require mid-range upfront investments (of between 100,000 and 500,000 EUR) and could begin in the medium term after critical ICT operations are stabilized.

  • Develop a staffing plan to add more specialized ICT staff in critical areas110 with appropriate education and experience and knowledge of court operations.111 (ICT Governance Group – short term)
  • Establish ICT career streams in critical areas to ensure that the interests of the judicial sector are well managed in partnership with the private sector and other implementation partners. (MOJ – medium term)
  • Create ICT staffing norms within courts and PPOs relative to total number of staff in each location. Hire sufficient and appropriately experienced staff at each court, or regionally to cover a number of smaller Courts. (MOJ, HJC, SPC – medium term)
  • Conduct a needs assessment of ICT staff training needs. Based on the needs assessment, develop a training program for ICT staff. (ICT Governance Group – medium term)

Recommendation 45:
Enhance existing case management systems by ensuring all available functions are used and that sufficient training is provided. Add several critical features and fields that are generally present in case management systems. Improve server performance.
112 Upgrading AVP software and servers, while more costly, should begin now.

  • Provide training on case management functionality for judges and court staff. Provide specific training on data entry for court staff, applying lessons from the Commercial Courts. (MOJ – short term)
  • Conduct periodic audits of case management system entries to ensure accuracy and consistency. (MOJ – medium term)
  • Develop a cost estimate for identified improvements in AVP that do not require a complete overhaul of the system. (MOJ – short term)
  • Extend functionality of AVP to include electronic document flows. (MOJ – medium term)
  • Investigate causes of slow server communication speed, and upgrade servers and WAN connections where needed to improve the speed of transactions. Replace distributed AVP architecture (where each court has its own server) with larger server ‘farms’, as recommended by the ICT Strategy Report. (MOJ – medium term)

Recommendation 46:
Implement standard (or at least consistent) information management practices across the judiciary to improve the quality of record-keeping and enable sector-wide data analysis.
113 Resolve problems with the statistical reporting in the judiciary’s automated systems so that data from courts are consistently submitted, accurate and, to the extent possible, generated by the system and not by manual calculations. Low-cost but high-return activities should commence in the short term. Introduction of a statistical umbrella is estimated at three to six months of person effort and should be implemented in the short to medium term.

  • Determine which data fields in AVP should be mandatory and introduce those and greater field validation to AVP to enhance the quality of system data. (ICT Governance Group, MOJ – short term)
  • Evaluate how the dashboard function of BPMIS can be aligned into existing case management systems. (ICT Governance Group, HJC – medium term)
  • Define detailed technical requirements, architecture, and implementation plans for an Information Integration, Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Solution to support decision-making, management reporting, and access to case file information and history regardless of format and system of record. (ICT Governance Group, MOJ – medium term)114
  • Develop and formalize data management mechanisms consistent with ISO/IEC TR 10032:2003 framework to include (ICT Governance Group – medium term and ongoing):
    • A sector-wide Corporate Data Model and Data Dictionary to document and maintain business and technical definitions across time and facilitate dialogue with judges, managers and staff. 115
    • Data management processes, including data management roles and responsibility, data ownership and stewardship.
    • A data quality management process that includes ongoing maintenance and review of the data across subject areas (see ISO 8000 Standard for Data quality and Master Data).
    • Data quality audits on a regular basis, including audits of business processes.

Recommendation 47:
Link the judiciary’s ICT systems and share documents electronically wherever possible.
116 Establishing standards should begin in the short term and continue into the medium term. These activities will require a moderate investment. The first and most critical of these activities is estimated at 20,000 to 100,000 EUR. Development of data exchange protocols is likely to be in the 100,000 Euro range.117 While electronic data flows between the courts would be quite costly, improving scanning to allow document sharing is a low-cost alternative.

  • Ensure interoperability by developing and implementing standards required of vendors/ developers. For example, every ICT system needs to be able to export data from particular fields (e.g., parties’ names, relevant dates, assigned judge) using XML structures. (ICT Governance Group – short term)
  • Review standards for scanning documents to increase the number and types of documents scanned. Address existing barriers to scanning by increasing the quantity and quality of scanners and strengthening server capability. (ICT Governance Group, MOJ – medium term)
  • Develop data exchange protocols to improve interoperability between existing systems. Install middleware to allow integration of data among existing systems. (MOJ – medium term)
  • Install and use middleware to share data between the courts and prosecutors. (ICT Governance Group, MOJ – long term)
  • Expand data exchange protocols and common technical standards to allow interoperability between the judiciary and external institutions, the law enforcement, the National Criminal Sanction database, and financial institutions. (MOJ – long term)

Recommendation 48:
Capitalize on e-justice by moving beyond providing information about the system to providing specific case information and allowing two-way interaction (e.g., paying fees, completing forms).
118 Doing so will also allow Serbia to take advantage of the European Justice Portal as a one-stop shop for citizen access. The cost of implementing the short-and medium term recommendations is estimated in the ICT Strategy Report at less than 20,000 EUR:

  • Evaluate the e-filing pilot,119 make changes as needed, and expand to other Courts.120 Upon expansion, shift resources in courts from data entry to tasks which support the modest costs of implementing e-filing. (ICT Governance Group – medium term)
  • Create common look-and-feel standards for all court websites. Improve existing websites or create new websites for all first instance courts to move from basic functionality to providing dynamic, case-specific information and allowing two-way interaction, including forms to be downloaded for completion. (HJC, SCC – medium term)
  • Develop common standards about appellate decisions to be uploaded to the public websites. (SCC – medium term)
  • Prepare to participate in the EU’s e-justice strategy prescribing a European Justice Portal as a one-stop shop for citizen access. (ICT Governance Group – long term)

Recommendation 49:
Require new and continuing employees to demonstrate computer literacy and provide staff with relevant ICT training.
121 Computer literacy requirements should be introduced in the short term with training in case management systems implemented in the medium term. Costs of this item are unknown but are likely to be moderate.

  • Require that all future job classifications in the sector require a minimum level computer software and word processing skills. (MOJ, HJC, SPC, Courts – short term)
  • Provide ICT literacy course to judges, prosecutors and court staff. Offer ICT refresher courses on-site in courts. (MOJ, HJC, SCC – short term)
  • Develop a training program focusing on case management system training. Distinguish between ICT specialists, super-users, and other employees to tailor ICT needs to different staff, including on the benefits of information management (case data capture and quality) and how statistical reporting can assist their work. (HJC, SPC, Judicial Academy – medium term)