Serbia Justice Functional Review

Internal Performance Assessment > Governance and Management

d. Effectiveness in Resource Management

i. Resource Management and Coordination

  1. Continued fragmentation results in suboptimal coordination and management of resources and resource planning. This is in part due to the division of responsibilities among Councils, the SCC, RPPO, and the MOJ which results in a lack of coordination in the planning for resources, such as judges, court staff, ICT, and infrastructure. This fragmentation is then deepened because departments within each organization work in silos and are isolated from each other. Within the Councils for example, the financial and material resources sections do not generally liaise with the human resource departments to identify ways to coordinate resource demands and calibrate them against needs. As a result, individual resources, if planned at all, are not coordinated within a resource envelope.
  2. To the extent that there is a common view, there is an inherent bias toward adding judges and assistants. This is evident in the high and growing wage bill, the incremental increases of personnel, and the common refrain that more staff is still needed. The distribution of judges and support staff tends to follow tradition more than logic – if Basic Court X had 10 judges, 10 positions will be maintained or the number might be increased. Yet, as highlighted in the Efficiency Chapter, there is no correlation between the number of judges and their caseload, nor the productivity of courts, nor is there a relationship between court size and the judge-to-staff ratio (see the Human Resources Chapter). Staffing patterns vary widely, and the use of contracted and voluntary employees contributes further to the variation. Other judiciaries across Europe and in the region operate at similar levels of effectiveness (clearance rates, times to resolution, pending backlog) with substantially less professional and support staff. Thus, Serbia’s preference for adding judges and assistants might merit reconsideration alongside more pressing needs, given that the resource envelope is fixed.
  3. The provision for other resources is less generous, and more of an afterthought. IT specialists, Court Managers, and experts in other disciplines are in short supply. Meanwhile, there are constant complaints that staff of all types are underequipped and poorly housed.626 Planning for these positions is not done, suggesting that budgeting for anything but the basic human resources – judges, prosecutors and possibly their immediate assistants – is done with what remains left over, or if managed by the MOJ, through donor funding.
  4. There is no systematic planning or programming for ICT and infrastructure – decisions are ad-hoc and based largely on what donors are willing to supply. Often overlooked are the longer-term costs of operations and maintenance. In the case of ICT, little analysis has been done as to what best fits within existing systems, which has led to a proliferation of donor-funded fragmented systems. Not enough training has been programmed to enable users to maximize the benefits of new investments. Yet these other resources will be critical to driving the kinds of performance enhancements that are required for EU integration.
  5. Justice sector planning in Serbia could benefit from two additions: greater attention to the need for non-judicial mid-level staff (e.g., IT and management experts) and an automatic recognition that the addition of one type of resources has implications for expenditures on other resource types.
    Further, the impact of one resource upon another is not estimated. For example, there is no sign that increases in IT equipment have sufficiently augmented budgets for IT specialists or IT training, or that the addition of court staff is translated into increased costs for equipment, space, and materials. The results in judges without offices, staff without computers, and a case management system with no training. Or in an extreme case with the court re-networking, some PPOs opened without desks and chairs for staff. Formulas need to be developed for making cost projections; otherwise, the investment in the original resource is not productive.
  6. Fragmentation also hides arrears. As discussed in the Financial Management Chapter, the accumulation of arrears is a significant problem for the judiciary and needs to be more proactively managed.

ii. Resource Mix and Ability to Program Resources Jointly

Box 22: How Much Should I Spend on What?

There is no European standard for the required mix of resources in the judicial system. Data on financial, HR, and ICT resources available to the judicial system can be compared at European level and beyond by utilizing internationally available budget data or the CEPEJ data. Always the biggest share of the budget of justice sector institutions is dedicated to human resources, but different systems dedicate greater or lesser shares to other resources. With no magic formula, much depends on the specific characteristics of the local context and the baseline from which a judiciary embarks. For example, a judiciary with an old or poor stock of existing infrastructure and ICT will need to spend a higher share of its resources on upfront capital investment than a judiciary that already has a decent stock.

  1. Neither the MOJ nor the Councils have developed the capacity to consider and program all resources jointly. Some aspects of joint programming were addressed above, but only regarding implied costs of additions of each type. This report examines the global programming in which strategic results are identified and resources are mobilized collectively to achieve them. Currently, there is no process to prioritize results, analyze data to identify alternative resource mixes that could be mobilized to achieve them, decide upon a resource mix, and later deploy plan resources accordingly. Instead, decision-making focuses on a desire for inputs and the preferences of individual decision-makers.
  2. With ambitious goals and a fixed resource envelope, trade-offs and linkages must be considered.627 Resources will need to be programmed in different combinations to generate more output of higher quality. The aim should be to make these choices by considering the goals to be pursued, examining available evidence on current system performance, and exploring alternative uses of funds based on local suggestions and the experience of other countries.
  3. Clearly, more needs to be invested in ICT, infrastructure, and training, and less devoted to salaries; this recalibration will require a series of decisions through the short and medium term. For example, IT investments (such as better scanning, improved access to legal research, the use of templates, and the automation of analytical reports) will reduce the need for large numbers of unskilled ancillary staff, but may require the addition of mid-level IT specialists and further training for all staff. While costs for HR, IT, and infrastructure tend to rise together, investments in one of them might reduce the immediate need for investments in others. For example, improving the workspaces for judges, prosecutors, and staff might raise their productivity without adding personnel. Attrition, through the non-replacement of departing judges and other personnel, could free up funds to invest on much-needed infrastructure.
  4. Further consideration could also be given to the mix of personnel. It may be necessary to hold the number of judges fixed over the medium term and increase their training, while prioritizing investments in skilled staff (IT specialists, managers, advisors) and reducing unskilled staff.
  5. These are the tasks of management units, with the preferable addition of an office dedicated to planning and analysis. This prior analysis should greatly enhance the confidence of leaders in making the correct choices about the mix of resources needed to mobilize the system to meet transformation goals. Combined with process re-engineering, alternative input mixes should allow the institutions to do much more with their existing resources, and make better arguments for targeted investments in certain areas such as ICT and infrastructure.
Serbia’s disjointed approach to resource programming, both within management structures and across institutions makes global planning difficult. If programming was more coordinated and linked to performance improvements, planners would have a wider range of alternatives for reaching desired output goals.