IBM told to fix e-Justice after system collapse

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The Cyprus government’s IT and digital services agency has warned IBM to fix the glitches that caused the e-justice platform to collapse within a week of its launch or risk losing the contract.

The system is supposed to digitise the electronic submission of all documents for most courts and allow access by all state agencies, including the police and the welfare department.

However, after its launch on January 15, several glitches caused the system to collapse, resulting in the lawyers staging a one-hour strike on Wednesday.

Neofytos Papadopoulos, the permanent secretary of the Deputy Ministry of Innovation, Research and Digital Strategy told members of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs that the contractor was given a strict deadline of five working days to address the identified issues.

He said that according to a clause in the €6 mln contract, failure to do so within the stipulated timeframe may result in the termination of the contract.

The Bar Association said the failure was “unacceptable” and that the system was supposed to be operational from December 18. Lawyers said the platform had major malfunctions and the contractor was given an initial extension to January 15 to fix them.

Papadopoulos highlighted the three main areas that needed to be fixed:

  1. Functional Problems: Issues related to the operational functionality of the e-justice system.
  2. Performance Issues: Concerns regarding the overall performance of the system.
  3. Payment System Failure: Challenges related to the failure of the payment system integrated into the e-justice platform.

The collapse of the system tested lawyers’ patience, who staged a protest outside the parliament, arguing that the failure would only add more delays to the island’s notoriously slow Justice system.

The Bar Association said a second demonstration has been planned for Friday outside district courthouses.

In comments to state radio CyBC, the association’s chairman Michalis Vorkas dubbed the situation as intolerable and a complete debacle.

Cases not found

He argued out that law offices were severely impacted, some individuals couldn’t find their cases, and only physically registered cases were being tried.

Vorkas highlighted recurrent glitches in online registrations, including payment issues. Users were randomly getting booted out, and system bugs even raised concerns about data security.

“We filed cases, only to receive a confirmation in gibberish,” he said.

Despite continuous warnings from the Bar Association since 2022, and positive assurances prior to the system going live, Vorkas stressed that the new platform failed to meet expectations.

He suggested the reinstatement of manual registration of cases and submission of documents to ensure uninterrupted access to justice.

Responding to lawyers’ calls to going old school, Deputy Minister of Innovation Nikodemos Damianos while acknowledging the critical and complex nature of handling the platform, deemed it irresponsible to hastily shut down the system without exhausting solutions for repair.

Damianos revealed that the system had undergone thirteen observation cycles over more than three years.

The e-Justice platform replaced the i-Justice system introduced in 2021 during the pandemic restrictions, allowing for partial submission of documents and filing of cases.

The new platform was supposed to be introduced in three stages: the current phase of going online and acquainting lawyers with the system, extending the platform to criminal courts by the second quarter of this year and the third phase of integrating the supreme courts into the system.