State comptroller finds flaws in courts' computerization

Project drags on as time-frame is poorly maintained.

Lindenstrauss AJ 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Lindenstrauss AJ 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
 Toward the end of the 1990s, the Courts Administration (CA) decided to computerize the entire court system and create a “paperless” regime, whereby all documents open to the public would be accessible by computer.
The project itself got under way only in 2003 and was due to be completed by February 2006. However, in September 2009, at the end of the State Comptroller’s investigation, only 60 percent of the courts were hooked up to the system at a cost of NIS 358 million, including operational and maintenance costs.
The comptroller found many flaws in the planning and implementation of the project.
The Courts Administration did not act in accordance with a government regulation for implementing the computerization of the office system. The CA did not publish a tender for the project on the grounds that all it was doing was integrating a system that already existed in each separate court.
It soon became obvious that the product being created was a new system altogether. At that point, the CA should have issued a public tender, as required by law, instead of choosing one company to do the work.
According to the contract, the project was due to be completed in 38 months. Each month, the CA paid 90 percent of the proportional amount that was to be paid each month of the contracted period, as a result of which the company had no incentive to finish the work on time.
The CA did not test each of the court systems as the company completed them. As a result, the CA ran into various problems once the system went into operation. The problems include systemic and operational flaws, unreliability, instability and slowness.
The CA also took upon itself the process of integrating the system into the work of the court and its clients, thus sharing responsibility for the problems that arose along with the company that built the system.
The comptroller advised completing the work on the system, stabilizingit and solving the flaws that caused harm to the way it functions andits reliability. The CA should issue a tender for operating andmaintaining the system and invest resources in properly integrating it,the state comptroller recommended.
In response, the Justice Ministry wrote: “In 2002, the CourtsAdministration stood at a crossroads where it decided to embrace thevision of establishing the system. During the early stage of theproject, we discovered certain gaps in various aspects regarding theimplementation of the project, including characterization,technological coordination and the business and legal negotiations.
“These gaps, which stemmed from the preliminary stages of the planningin the early 2000s, are not necessarily exceptional in a project ofthis size. The findings of the State Comptroller’s Report partlyaddresses these gaps.
“Parallel to the efforts to overcome these gaps, there came to be anurgent need to begin implementing the project, as we became aware ofthe technological limitations of the older computerized systems and theadvantages of the new one and the expected contribution to theimprovement and greater efficiency of the procedures in the courts.”