Thursday, September 08, 2011

Precedent reveals Ontario wasted $350 million on failed online court procedures

“If it’s possible to make millions playing poker online in pajamas, surely there ought to be a way to schedule a court appointment or file a document online as well.” -- Melissa Wilson , assistant editor of Precedent magazine and author of Ontario Government vs The 21st Century in Precedent magazine
An investigative feature  in the  fall issue of Precedent magazine, the independent magazine for young lawyers (out September 13),  reveals that the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has spent nearly $350 million in 15 years trying to put simple courtroom procedures online — twice.  Both attempts ended quietly in failure.
Former Attorney General for Ontario David Young, who shut down the first attempt, called the Integrated Justice Project, in 2002, admits: “We spent a lot of money and had very little to show for it.” After what was intended as a for-profit venture, the government ended up spending $265 million to develop the IJP, and $63 million to settle a breach of contract suit.
In 2007, Dalton McGuinty's government tried again, starting small, with a court scheduling and reservation system. It hired a private contractor, Court Canada, to develop the system, Online System for Court Attendance Reservations the following summer. But in March 2010, the Ministry suddenly and inexplicably shut the program down. Now Court Canada is suing the Ministry for $14.5 million, alleging the government reneged on the contract and sought to discredit the system.
The story reveals the ministry is trying again — this time with an internal project called The Court Management Information System which it claims will launch in 2012. 
Among other things, the story reports that it takes 2.5 hours to schedule a motion in Ontario; 3 minutes in BC. 
[Disclosure: I am on the advisory board of the magazine.]



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