During the performance audit “Effectiveness of investigations and trials of the criminal offences in the economic and financial area”, the State Audit Office assessed the governance of the implementation of an electronic case (hereinafter referred to as e-case) in investigation and trials. The introduction of e-cases in criminal proceedings, which one plans to complete and introduce in courts and the Prosecutor’s Office by April 2021, and in investigative institutions by 2023, was assessed in detail. At present, one has planned 27 million euros in total for the introduction of the e-case.
The State Audit Office supports the introduction of the e-case, which would reduce the duration of investigations and trials by solving problems caused by the maintenance and circulation of documents in paper form. Still, the auditors draw attention to the deficiencies simultaneously that one must address to achieve the goal of digitising criminal proceedings and the expected benefits of e-case implementation.
The State Audit Office deems that one requires both funding and technical competencies, and good project management and project manager. The audit concludes that the implementation of the single e-case program lacks both. For the management of the e-case program and the achievement of its goals, there is no organisational structure defined and established to monitor the implementation of the e-case as a whole. The e-case program’s scope is unclear, but the ongoing implementation is fragmented into several projects without joint governance and supervision.
Issues related to developing criminal e-case are addressed in six project monitoring groups consisting of 55 representatives from 16 institutions. Yet, the participation of representatives of those institutions in the organisational structures does not imply a responsibility for implementing the e-case program as a whole, which would include joint supervision of e-case program implementation, managerial level decision-making, harmonisation and implementation of common standards and terms and conditions.
Hence, the implementation of the e-case has started from the stage of the proceedings instead of the initial stage (investigation), where one generates the most significant volume of documents. They have commenced executing the projects “Development of the Court Information System”, “Improvement of the Prison Administration Information System”, “Improvement of the Probation Client Registration System”, and “Development of the Prosecutor’s Office Information System” has started. However, the criminal proceedings begin with the investigation stage. The development of the e-case should have started in investigative institutions, where the State Police, the State Revenue Service, and the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau are among the largest ones. Such a solution creates additional work for the Prosecutor’s Office related to the scanning of documents created by the investigative institutions at least until 2024 when the investigative institutions will join the e-case of criminal proceedings.
The electronic signature is one of the significant issues in digitising documents, which is not available to public administration employees involved in investigations and legal proceedings sufficiently and which individuals use even less than officials do. The auditors draw attention to the risk that if the equipment for obtaining the signature image is not purchased and available on the planned date of commencement of the use of the e-case on 1 April 2021, the generation and storage of procedural documents paper form will not decrease.
For facilitating the planning, development, and introduction of the e-case, the State Audit Office has called on the Ministry of Justice to take the lead and implement the five recommendations provided by the State Audit Office in cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. For the management and monitoring of the implementation of the e-case program, the ministries and the Prosecutor’s Office are invited to determine the organisational structure of the appropriate managerial level, to update the conceptual architecture and the performance requirements of the e-case. To promote implementation, the State Audit Office calls for the development of an action plan for the complete transition to the electronic signing of documents, including identifying the purchase of the necessary equipment.
The State Audit Office has addressed the Crime Prevention Council on the need to introduce an action mechanism for the unified supervision of the e-case program.