Serbia Justice Functional Review

Internal Performance Assessment > ICT Management

a. Governance of ICT Planning and Investments

  1. Information management is of critical importance to the entire judicial system. First, information is essential to adjudicate disputes. Second, and if used properly, information management can optimize the utilization of other available resources and strengthen the judicial system’s performance. In Serbia, despite the number of initiatives aimed at improving the functionality of management information systems including in the area of court budget preparation, the information system is unable to meet the overall business needs of the judicial system at either the policy or at the operational level.
  2. The key deficiency in ICT is the significant gap between the information collected by the judicial system and the information that stakeholders can effectively access. In addition, the information needed for judicial system functions and by the stakeholders supporting them are not systematically mapped.
  3. The fragmentation of information flows is manifested by the following:
    1. workload and case flow information is not integrated with resource management information, e.g. when cases are registered in the case management system, they are not automatically registered in the accounting system;
    2. the courts are required to give multiple supervisory bodies (the Councils, the SCC, and the MOJ) regular reports that overlap, but never provide the whole picture on performance and are not shared among the supervising organizations; and
    3. the systems used for the preparation and execution of court budgets are not linked.
  4. Judicial institutions rely heavily on information obtained manually from one another or other public institutions (MOI, National Bank, etc.). The level of electronic communication should be higher since most information flows through traditional paper-based channels.864 Also, the organizations responsible for 313 elements of the business process (e.g. PPOs, the courts, and the prisons) do not collect easily comparable data, nor do they have a direct access to each other’s data.
  5. The fragmentation of data models is evident given the judicial system lacks a comprehensive and consistently used model types of data (including substance of cases, information on parties, workflow management, personnel, facilities, equipment, and finance). A comprehensive model would ensure system-wide uniformity in the scope of data collected, the clarity of data definitions, and the linkage between data.
  6. Data management is deeply fragmented. There is no centralized data storage, and the same data may need to be entered or manually copied multiple times. Data are usually retained and can be accessed only by those who first enter them.
  7. ICT solutions and management are also fragmented. Courts of different types, and even different courts of the same type, rely on different ICT solutions to perform the same functions. The responsibility for substantive data control and ICT management is not clearly defined and often overlap. Further, without system-wide project appraisal criteria compliant with international standards, both donor-funded and internally funded ICT initiatives amplify the fragmentation of ICT.

i. Planning Structures

  1. In 2013, the justice system under the leadership of the MOJ evaluated its ICT systems, operations, and management structures resulting in the ICT Strategy Report and Annex. The Strategy recognizes the strategic role of automation in the long-term success of the judiciary. The Strategy assesses how the judiciary’s IT and business strategies can be aligned, prioritizes areas most in need of reform, and identifies specific action steps and funding for making ICT improvements.
  2. The judiciary is not supported by sufficiently robust governance structures to ensure that IT investments help achieve the justice system’s goals. The responsibility for ICT is widely distributed and loosely structured among different entities: visibility of ICT across the judicial sector is low, resources are inefficiently allocated, and systems are incompatible. The judiciary is grappling with the Strategy’s scope and depth of recommendations to improve ICT processes. The planning for implementation of improvements called for in the Strategy cannot begin until governance structures are strengthened and roles clearly defined.
  3. There is no overall governance group representing the primary justice institutions to set ICT policies, prioritize ICT initiatives, or conduct long-term planning.865 Committees for the standardization of software for different case management systems (AVP and SAPS866 ) were created in early 2010, and a similar committee for the Misdemeanor Court system (SIPRES) will be formed. However, these groups meet separately from each other, impeding information sharing across systems. In addition, the RPPO largely manages prosecutor ICT operations on its own outside of the MOJ’s auspices, even though a significant new application (SAPO) is under development.867 There is no forum for considering court and prosecutor system issues in tandem, leading to an absence of system coordination between courts and prosecutors.
  4. The oversight groups that exist are technical in nature and do not drive policy. These committees deal with specific software or operational issues, rather than undertaking strategic ICT planning or reengineering868 processes to take better advantage of technology.869 The committees’ work needs to be carefully calibrated with amendments to the Court’s Book of Rules and with legislative amendments. In some instances, critical decisions have been delayed.870
  5. The MOJ ICT Division is not large enough and does not include people with in-depth knowledge of court operations or programming, limiting its ability to develop systems to enhance court efficiency or quality.871 Out of 18 ICT employees including the Assistant Minister in charge, five staff (less than one-third) work in justice automation, and the remaining employees are assigned to public administration functions. The MOJ’s efforts in ICT are centered on donor contributions and contract management rather than the development of new or existing systems.
  6. Therefore, the judiciary does not generally have the capacity or strategic vision necessary to transform itself.872 With a clear vision, the system could create an implementation plan to continuously align the judiciary’s ICT Strategy with business needs and monitor progress against the strategy. The staff could execute and monitor ongoing projects, manage projects and conduct business analysis, system architecture design, risk analysis, and security design. A dedicated staff with a clear vision could support and coordinate ICT operations and maintenance services.
  7. The much needed activities (creating an implementation plan, business analysis) are either not taking place or the judiciary is entirely reliant on vendors to execute projects and provide support).873 Vendor reliance creates significant costs and risks and undercuts the development of a much-needed in-house capacity.
  8. Courts report that the AVP working group for general jurisdiction courts is effective in identifying needs, but resources are lacking to make the needed changes. Software changes are not strategically planned: the working group meetings approve requests for software changes as they emerge rather than considering them against the budget for system changes at the beginning of the year or quarter.874
  9. The MOJ recognizes a need for a more focused approach to judicial ICT resources, particularly given the size of Serbia’s current and needed ICT investments. A centralized ICT unit with motivated and skilled staff, and a market approach focused on a ‘value for money’ rather than a purely technological approach is needed. Without this focus, ICT operations will continue to be inefficient, and systems across the sector will remain uncoordinated.
  10. The ICT Strategy Report recommends considering a public-private partnership to develop and maintain ICT systems, but the sector does not appear ready for this. Effective public-private Partnerships require significant government capacity and engagement in system preparation, design, implementation and monitoring. Even if such partnerships were created, a robust judiciary governance structure would be needed. The IT Division of the MOJ would need to increase in size and significantly expand its mission to ensure the correct deployment of ICT resources. There would also be an ongoing need for separate committees for ICT policy and operations, and for clear guidelines about the issues to be addressed by these committees and the manner in which these committees make decisions.

ii. ICT Funding

  1. ICT remains underfunded, preventing the development of new systems or the consolidation of existing ones. The MOJ’s ICT budget increased in nominal terms between 2010 and 2012 but actually fell in real terms.875 In 2012, 94.2 million RSD were budgeted for business software implementation, but a portion of the budget was used to cover arrears for the development and maintenance of AVP given that no funding had been allocated for this purpose since 2010. The remainder was lost mid-year in the supplementary budget process. The total five-year (2014-2018) ICT funding needs identified in the Strategy are significant, ranging from a total of 7.6 million to 15 million EUR, with expenditures peaking at 6.5 million EUR in 2015. This represents a 230 percent increase from the 2012 funding levels for the MOJ ICT.876 Should such increases of funding be sourced, the MOJ’s capacity to disburse those funds will need to be strengthened.
  2. There is no long-range ICT budget planning or funding to sustain automation initiatives on an ongoing basis. This gap is in part because the Serbian budget system does not allow for multi-year budgeting for capital investments. Nonetheless, the judiciary should analyze its long-term needs to inform its own planning, and later request amounts on an annual basis until the overall capital planning process is reformed. ICT funding is instead provided on an ad-hoc basis to meet the most critical immediate needs.
  3. The Serbian judiciary does not perform business case analyses for proposed projects877 or analyze their likely total cost of ownership (TCO). Initial investments in ICT are estimated to be only one-third of the total system costs over the system’s life cycle. Significant costs are incurred for ongoing maintenance, future hardware and software upgrades, staffing, licensing, facility improvements, training, and utilities. Performing a lifecycle TCO analysis would advance long-term financial planning and reduce the risk of projects being stillborn or underfunded.
  4. The TCO approach would require closer coordination between the MOJ, the HJC and the SPC. Presently, responsibility for funding capital expenditures and operational expenses is divided between the MOJ for capital and the Councils for operational expenses878 . In the area of infrastructure, capital and current expenses will be consolidated within the MOJPA to prevent this bifurcation. The same should be considered for ICT given that the nature of the two types of resources and the rationale for consolidation are similar. A consolidated ‘home’ for ICT issues would enable a more holistic approach to ICT, including business case analysis and a TCO approach.
  5. The maintenance of software, internet connections, and equipment replacement absorbs a significant share of judicial ICT resources. The total ICT justice sector expenditures were estimated at 326.2 million RSD879 in 2012, of which only 16 million RSD were spent on infrastructure, operational development, and training.880
  6. Ongoing maintenance and support costs of ICT equipment provided by donors are not foreseen. Many donor-funded ICT projects do not support their counterparts in calculating ongoing costs, help plan these costs, or build them into budgets. Without forward planning and budgeting, the equipment is not maintained, one-off training programs are not repeated, and the full benefits of the donors’ contributions are then not realized.
  7. The MOJ reports there are significant arrears for amounts owed to vendors for system development in prior years. The MOJ was unable to provide the specific arrears for each vendor, but some case management vendors report working for extended periods without compensation.881
  8. These existing obligations leave little funding for planning new systems or for scheduled replacement of equipment. The MOJ has not adopted a plan or a budget proposal for ICT replacement.
  9. There is no unified inventory of justice system ICT hardware or software assets to be used as a basis for planning future ICT funding needs. The missing information includes the age and condition of hardware, and the renewal dates for software.882 An inventory of court ICT equipment is included in the HJC’s BPMIS system. Courts such as the Novi Sad Higher Court have independently prepared a more complete hardware inventory883 . The RPPO maintains a separate hardware inventory for the PPOs, and these sources should be brought together into a single inventory.
  10. The courts report that they have an adequate number of computers, at a ratio of almost one desktop or laptop per authorized position (see Table 41). With a lower ratio, the Misdemeanor Courts are the exception. First instance courts also report an adequate number of scanners, but once again, with the exception of Misdemeanor Courts.
  1. However, courts report that the use of many older, slower computers impedes the effective use of systems and efficient service delivery. For example, in the Belgrade First Basic Court, the age of workstations, printers, and scanners is reported to result in excessive downtime and maintenance costs. Donors purchased much of the judiciary’s hardware when they implemented projects. Without any succession planning, the judiciary has not been replenished.885

iii. Outsourcing Arrangements

  1. The MOJ does not provide ICT staff support to the courts. Operations are fragmented and reliant on vendors, donor organizations, or internal court resources. Currently, the following services are fully or partially outsourced to private vendors:
    1. application system development and implementation (MEGA, C.E., ATOS);
    2. application system support (MEGA, C.E., ATOS);
    3. provision of wide area network, WAN/LAN development and maintenance (Orion Telecom);
    4. provision of e-mail services (Orion Telecom);
    5. end-user hardware (servers, workstations, printers) maintenance (SAGA, Informatika);
    6. anti-virus software (Smart).
  2. Reliance on outside vendors to provide IT services is greater than in most countries. The Gartner Group, the leader in assessing technology planning, states that governments spend slightly over 40 percent of IT expenditures on average on personnel and only 22 percent on outsourcing.886 A much greater share of ICT expenditures in Serbia is for outsourced services.
  3. ICT vendor agreements are not consistently well-developed, resulting in varying degrees of effectiveness. Because of the heavy reliance on vendors, contracts’ details are critically important. Some current contracts do not consistently describe the development services to be provided. They also do not ensure adequate and accessible technical support,887 detail preventative and corrective maintenance, or provide clear description and state ownership of source code888 , specifics of release management, or maintenance of trouble logs.889 Some system users indicate there was little consultation with users before systems went live, or that feedback was provided but was not incorporated.890 Similarly, while some contracts specify the precise hours and form of helpdesk assistance, the Commercial Courts lack access to helpdesk services and SAPS user report only modest helpdesk assistance. In contrast, the agreement between USAID’s JRGA project and MEGA for support of SIPRES provides a good model.

Box 29: Elements of Effective ICT Vendor Agreements: The Development of SIPRES

1) Identify the specific development services needed with enough details to avoid ambiguity or error.
2) Detail how preventative, corrective, and upgrade maintenance will be provided, and include fixed rates for regular maintenance.
3) Detail the level of source code required and ownership of the source code.
4) Provide for effective release management so that conflicting versions of the software are not used concurrently.
5) Specify the times and methods of helpdesk services (online, call-in, in person).
6) Require vendors to create trouble tickets and report the most common helpdesk assistance and interventions.

  1. There is no remote backup of systems or data. The local system backups for AVP and SAPS are made daily, making this a good first step yet not as secure as creating a remote backup. Looking forward, system integration will require an appropriate data warehousing.
  2. Security of manual files is also a concern. Some courts are holding files in insecure locations. In some exceptional instances, large piles of files line corridors of public access areas of courts and PPOs.