In a bid to curb corruption and case backlog, the judiciary has set aside Shs 9 billion for the Electronic Court Case Management Information System (ECMIS) to ensure cohesion, transparency in the dissemination of justice as well as solve delays in court filing, writes DAVID LUMU.
A technical team from Synergy International System and Sybyl Limited, the joint ECMIS contractors, is in the country to hold a series of trainings for the top judicial officials with a view of preparing Uganda for the new electronic system.
Last week, the team made assessments in the judicial infrastructure to ascertain the various needs in developing the system that is expected to be rolled out in May 2020. ECMIS is a digital system that will eradicate manual filing of cases by offering a transparent system that can be monitored by every litigant without the need to physically be at the court. It tracks, analyses and offers regular update for one to know about the progress of the case.
This eases the work of judges, lawyers, court clerks and litigants as well as creating an environment of openness in the dissemination of justice. Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary of the Judiciary, is hopeful that the soon-to-be-piloted ECMIS will solve the most pertinent problems of the judiciary; corruption and case backlog.
The judicial steering committee is chaired by Justice Martin Stephen Egonda Ntende with membership of Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Pius Bigirimana, the secretary to the Judiciary, and chief registrar Esther Nambayo.
In September, Bigirimana and key technocrats from the judiciary travelled to Armenia to get hands on about the system. The two companies are doing the design, development, deployment and maintenance of the system.
"We badly need ECMIS to start operating and I've already set the roadmap for its successful implementation," he told The Observer. "Synergy has shared its experience and lessons learned from their Case Management System (CMS) implementations and what is left for now is to establish guidelines for the ECMIS project as we get closer to operationalize it."
The system is projected to be implemented in May 2020.
WHAT IS ECMIS?
It is a fully-featured system which automates and tracks all aspects of a case life cycle from initial filing through disposition and appeal as to each individual party for any case type. It is founded on the Judiciary existing business rules and processes, requiring minimal human intervention.
It is also able to facilitate the efficient and reliable collection, organization, distribution and retrieval of significant amounts of case-specific data as well as the processing of payment of relevant court fees and fines by the citizens. In short, ECMIS will create a more efficient and effective process of resolving the cases in courts.
Among the different modules of the ECMIS is form generation, which enables a person to create a file for tracking the progress of a case in which he/she is a litigant. The system also has an advanced analytical reporting mechanism to simplify the legal understanding of the cases.
Furthermore, the system is equipped with a calendar and task manager to help litigants understand their roles in a case on top of updating the next date of hearing of a case or trial. ECMIS is also fitted with an automated workflow processing to help in streamlining of cases from the various divisions of the court as well as an intelligent case allocation component to ease the work of judicial officers.
What's more, ECMIS has a unique e-filing and online case data entry to help litigants address basic information that may be used in court. The collaboration, messaging and notification service of the ECMIS ensure that litigants get timely reminders about the progress of their cases.
Lastly, the file-based access of ECMIS requires one to log into the system and bars unsolicited people or online fraudsters from accessing the case information.
According to Bigirimana, ECMIS will improve services. "It has case management techniques to enhance record-keeping and reduce delays and case backlogs by automating and standardizing manual procedures," he says.
He adds that ECMIS will be a great asset for the judiciary in the fight against corruption.
"ECMIS will reduce human-to-human interaction and thereby making it unattractive to engage in corrupt tendencies," he says. "It will also save costs because its automated workflow processes guides users through their daily activities and notify users of pending actions, improving overall efficiency and cost savings."
Meanwhile, Bigirimana admits that the scope of ECMIS will transcend to all related sectors through the inter-agency data integration.
"Data will move seamlessly from one justice sector institution to another, from law enforcement, to the courts, to corrections, improving communication and reducing the likelihood of processing errors," he says. "We shall be able to ably share valuable information with the police and office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, among others."