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NSW court IT bugged by delays and cost overruns

Courts in the Australian state of New South Wales have been let down by the delay and budget overrun in the implementation of its Web-based JusticeLink administration system.

Courts in the Australian state of New South Wales may have had a good year in case management terms, but have been let down by the delay and budget overrun in the implementation of its Web-based JusticeLink administration system.

The JusticeLink system is expected to be fully implemented across all NSW jurisdictions by July 2008, according to a report released yesterday by the state Auditor General's Department.

Work on the system commenced initially in 2001, with a view to completion by 2006. However, delays occurred early in the project after tests indicated that the software could not meet the needs of each court across the respective jurisdictions.

The original cost estimate of the system was US$26.5 million (AU$30.3 million), but yesterday's report said the total capital cost for the project is now estimated at US$42.2 million (AU$48.2 million), with US$7.1 million (AU$8.1 million) in recurrent expenditure.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's Department said that the US$26.5 million (AU$30.3 million) figure "was estimated prior to the department entering into the initial contract for the project and didn't represent the full cost of Justicelink at the time".

"The full range of functionality wasn't included in the original estimate and we know expect the end result will be a much better product overall," he told ZDNet Australia.

While the service has not been fully integrated to date, several of its functions are already operational in the Supreme Court, such as e-services for corporations and possessions lists, and a costs assessment application.

Implementation of all applications for District and Local courts is expected by February 2008 and July 2008 respectively, along with the remaining functions for the Supreme Court.

The Department advised that the reforms introduced through the system so far have resulted in a number of organizational improvements, and cited the streamlining of the court forms process as a significant advance, with the number of forms reduced from approximately 700 to 100.

According to the report, figures for the year ending 30 July 2007 indicated that courts across almost every jurisdiction in the state had a case clearance rate of above 100 percent, meaning not only had they been able to clear their existing cases for the year but had also been able to clear some or all of their backlogs.

The backlog is considered to be an accurate measure of court timeliness, and is defined as the percentage of pending cases within a jurisdiction that are older than the court's case disposal time.

The NSW Auditor-General's office had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.