e-File - central case management system
Centre of Registers and Information Systems

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Before the introduction of the central case management system - e-File - there existed no unique and immediate access to procedural data by all the parties to a proceeding. There was an overload of information systems, which functioned independently from each other. For instance, the Police information system (MIS) could send data only to the Criminal Case Management Register (KRMR), the KRMR was able to forward procedural decisions and information back to the MIS and to the Court Information System (KIS), and so on. This caused inefficiencies, even more so, because all organisations re-entered the information relevant for matters in their own databases. For example, information related to very general data such as peoples’ name and address were entered into various systems several times. Moreover, the various existing systems had different business rules and logics to gather data. Multiple data entry resulting in bad data quality was also common. Last but not least, before the e-File, digitalized information did not reach the citizens who are an important part of the proceedings. Recognising the need to break down information silos, the Ministry of Justice of Estonia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Estonia, and the Estonian Police Board decided in mid-2004 that first a strategic analysis, identifying the design principles of a new information system and the most appropriate information technology solution to develop in the field of law enforcement, should be carried out. The analysis, concluded that the most appropriate solution would be the implementation of a combined digital file making data simultaneously available for different authorities.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
E-File is a central information system that provides an overview of the different phases of criminal, misdemeanour, civil and administrative procedures, court adjudications, and procedural acts to all the parties involved, including the citizen. E-File is also an integrated system, which enables the simultaneous exchange of information between different parties’ information systems: Police, prosecution offices, courts, prisons, probation supervision, bailiffs, legal aid system, tax and customs board, state share service centre, lawyers and citizens. As a result, institutions and persons no longer need to key in the same information more than once, each can change or add information when necessary.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The overall goal of the e-File is to contribute to a more open Justice. Two objectives help to achieve that goal. On the one hand, merging the information systems of institutions conducting proceedings of court-cases, extra judicial and pre-trial proceedings into a combined electronic procedural system, where information is immediately available to involved parties. On the other hand, providing better access to justice for the public through the public interface of the e-File called the Public e-File portal, ensuring that all the parties to the proceeding have the same information at the same time and thus can act as equal partners. Moreover, by merging different systems, thanks to the e-File it became possible to hold data in and add additional information based on harmonised business rules all in one place. Since data is only entered once and is immediately available to all relevant parties, e-File helped to reach the objectives of improving data quality and availability, simplifying and making the work of public officials in its own turn more efficient. Not of lesser importance were reaching the objectives of safety and security. Indeed, e-File is secure and safe to use because the files are in a server that requires an ID-card and password for access and data is backed up and located in different servers.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The most important innovative features of the e-File are: First, providing better access to justice, i.e. open Justice to all the involved parties and to the citizens in particular through the public e-File portal. Second, connecting various information systems enabling to hold data in and add additional information based on harmonised business rules, an innovation in itself already, all in one place. Third, the fact of holding data all in one place results in its own turn in another innovative feature, that of getting general and consolidated statistics. Fourth, incorporating the Criminal Records data into the e-File in such a way that Criminal Records’ extracts can be generated automatically from the data of court decisions added by courts. Fifth, the implementation of the claims’ and state fees’ calculation system, where all the financial claims created by the parties are described in the meta data and the control of payment of the claims will be executed automatically.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The implementer of the e-File project was the Centre of Registers and Information Systems who is still responsible for developing, administrating and maintaining the system today. The afore mentioned tasks are carried out by three in-house teams of the Centre of Registers and Information Systems of Estonia: the business team, the development team and the service maintenance team. The business team deals with describing and agreeing the functional needs and rules inside the system. The business team is made up of experts with judicial and business analysis background, who understand what is needed from the users point of view. Their task is to make the before mentioned needs understandable for the development team. The business team knows what is going to change in the laws and how this affects the system. The team members plan the activities according to the priorities of the users and manage overall goals that the system needs to achieve and plan the work accordingly. The development team is responsible for implementing the business rules inside the system. This is a classical software development team consisting of technical analysts, programmers and testers. They analyse the business rules coming from the business team and develop the software accordingly. The service maintenance team consists of IT-administrators and other technical staff that is needed to keep the actual system up and running. Their task is to monitor the system 24/7 and do all the maintenance tasks that need to be done regarding the database and application servers. The e-File system contributing to a more open Justice benefits all the citizens of Estonia, lawyers and , justice field state institutions through its various client systems.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Once the strategic analysis identifying the best solution to opt for, had been carried out, the Government of Estonia decided the development of the e-File project in 2005. To ensure the presence and inclusion of all the stakeholders from the beginning of the project as well as to facilitate the implementation of the strategy, a Committee of Ministers was formed. The committee included four ministries – Minister of Justice, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communication, Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Finance – and was led by the Minister of Justice. The Committee of Ministers was responsible for taking the most high-level decisions regarding the project. The Ministry of Justice of Estonia was appointed the project leader and the Centre of Registers and Information Systems of Estonia, the information technology agency under the aforementioned ministry, the project developer. The Secretary Generals of the respective ministries, who were under the direct subordination of the Committee of Ministers, were responsible for the overall development of the project. The Coordinative Body, in its own turn under the subordination of the Secretary General Leading Group, was composed of representatives of all the institutions whose information systems were to be connected with the e-File. The Coordinative Body managed the activities of various working groups. Three specialised working groups, including the various stakeholders, were also formed: criminal and misdemeanour procedures; civil and administrative procedures and statistics working groups. The Coordinative Body convenes regularly until now in order to resolve upcoming problems and further develop the e-File when the regulative initiative requires it. In parallel, the actual development from 2006-2009 and later on the maintenance of the e-File was and still is today carried out by three in-house teams of the Centre of Registers and Information Systems of Estonia: the business team, the development team and the service maintenance team. The business team is made up of six experts with judicial and business analysis background, the development team of twelve technical analysts, programmers and testers and the maintenance team of three IT-administrators and other technical staff. The teams report to the respective heads of departments who report directly to the director of the Centre. Given, the Centre is under the Ministry of Justice of Estonia, the director of the Centre reports to the top management of the Ministry. To ensure the efficient implementation of such a large-scale project, very good communication is needed between the various stakeholders. One the one hand, this was already to a great extent ensured by the various decision-making groups meeting on a regular basis. On the other hand, each of the four ministries involved in the project was responsible for communication on the project within their jurisdiction, including the subordinating agencies and organisations. The e-File project has received funding from two sources. The e-File was and still is financed from the State budget. Moreover, in 2008 and then again in 2010, the project received European Union Regional Development Fund funding. The overall development budget, including the human resources cost of the developers (technical analysts, programmers and testers) from 2006 till the end of 2014 raised to around 2,6 million euros. In addition, there are administrative costs related to the project, including, for example, the human resources costs related to the business analysis and maintenance side of the project. The human resources allocated to develop and maintain the e-File can be divided between the three in-house teams of the Centre of Registers and Information Systems of Estonia. The estimated human resources costs of the before mentioned teams are 100 000 euros, 200 000 euros and 80 000 euros a year respectively.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Given the development and implementation of the e-File affected many parties, to ensure that all stakeholders were presented and involved from the beginning of the project a committee of Ministers, a Secretary General Leading Group, a coordinative body and working groups at different decision-making levels were formed. All the groups at different hierarchy levels met on a regular basis. The Committee of ministers included four ministries – Minister of Justice, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communication, Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Finance – and was led by the Minister of Justice. The Secretary General Leading Group was composed of the Secretary Generals of the four Ministries. The information flow was guaranteed not only from top to bottom but also from bottom to top level. Indeed, the Coordinative Body, including representatives of all the institutions whose information systems were to be connected with the e-File, e.g Police, Prosecutors’ office, Courts, Lawyers, Jails representative, was the link between the different decision-making levels and hence ensured information flow both ways.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The implementation of the e-File has greatly contributed to a more open justice in Estonia thanks to the following results: First, the implementation of the system increased the transparency of the justice system on the whole, enabling to monitor and measures the activities of state authorities, including getting consolidated statistics from the same source that cover all the institutions in the justice chain. Second, the e-File gives legal certainty to citizens, because they see online the proceedings they are involved in and which are initiated against them. Third, it also saves time and money as data are only entered once, minimising the mistakes made, and communication between parties is immediate and electronic, e.g. one does not have to go to court to initiate a proceeding but can do it via Internet using the Public e-File portal. The elimination of multiple data entries improved data quality, simplifying and making the work of public officials in its own turn more efficient. Fourth, the e-File also helped to optimize the work processes in public authorities, especially those in courts and police, enabling a completely digital workflow for all the parties to the proceeding Fifth, the e-File is securer and safer than any paper-system, because the system enables to leave a track of every use of the data in e-File, to identify the misuse of data and data is backed up and located in different servers.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacle encountered was in the beginning: to get the parties that will all be involved and affected by the new system to understand the existing problem points as well as to reach a common understanding how to resolve the problem. Moreover, once that common understanding was reached, the next obstacle was to reach common grounds on the timescale. It is understandable that different parties have different priorities, given time and budget constraints. To overcome the aforementioned obstacles multiple meetings were needed to communicate to all parties the current situation and its shortcomings and explain the benefits of the effort to create a new central system. The meetings were organised at all levels - minister, mid level managers, specialist - to ensure that everyone affected would feel that they are part of the project rather than feel it is a decision made outside the decision field.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The key benefits of the E-File for the Estonian citizens and the State include: - Saving time and money both for the citizen as well as for the State as data are only entered once and communication between parties is electronic and immediate ensured through the Public e-File portal for the citizens. Data is always up to date, and immediately visible to the relevant user – cirtizen, institution, lawyer - after information (notice, decisions etc.) is created. - Reducing proceeding times and hence delivery of court decisions. If In 2009, before the launch of the e-File, average proceeding times in first instance courts in criminal, misdemeanour and civil cases were 451, 75 and 206 days respectively. Four years later, in 2013, the average proceeding times of the cases had dropped to 262, 62 and 168 days respectively. - Providing publication of court judgements electronically on the one official website (www.riigiteataja.ee). Under Estonian law all judgments are by default public unless decided otherwise by the Judge. - Ensuring legal certainty to citizens, because they see online the proceedings they are involved in and which are initiated against them. - Increasing transparency of the Justice system and equality between all partners, since all the parties to the proceeding have the same information at the same time and thus can act as equal partners. - Ensuring security, since all files are in a server that requires an ID-card and password (infrastructure ensured by the Estonian government) for access and data is backed up and located in different servers.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The implementation of the e-File indeed contributed to the integrity of the data, since all procedural information is stored in the E-File.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Since the Public e-File portal intended for all Estonian citizens is accessible to anyone in hold of Estonian ID-card (mandatory as of the age of 15) and given that Estonia is also covered with public free internet access (ensured by libraries), it can be concluded that the initiative benefits all citizens, regardless of their sex, age and social background.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Centre of Registers and Information Systems
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Contact Person:   katlin Kattai
Title:   Head of Client and International Relations  
Telephone/ Fax:   +3726636337
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   katlin.kattai@just.ee  
Address:   Lõkke 4
Postal Code:   19081
City:   Tallinn
State/Province:   Harjumaa
Country:  

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