Although Albania has not yet launched a comprehensive suite of e-justice services*, it has made a number of steps in that direction. Their journey has demonstrated the impact a unique EU-funded project can have on the overall development of a consolidated, transparent justice system and has also highlighted issues with electronic solutions that are implemented too quickly, without regard to getting the basics right first (like proper auditing). As they get closer to joining the European Union, their next steps will be analysed with a fine tooth comb and it will be important for them to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes twice.
In the justice sector, a few important IT projects were carried out, such as the establishment of the Electronic Case Management System for Judicial Execution – ALBIS, the Electronic Court Cases Registration System – ICMIS, the Online Court Status Certificate System and the computerised registration system within the Office for Registration of Immovable Property. The two systems that will be discussed in detail are the ALBIS system and the ICMIS system; two tech projects that were aimed at combatting the high level of corruption reported within the judiciary and the very slow pace of decision making.
ALBIS (“Sistemi Elektronik i Menaxhimit të Dokumentave dhe Çështjeve të Përmbarimit Gjyqësor”) was implemented in 2011, following decision No. 443 of the Council of Ministers.
Developed by local firm KonSort at the request of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the case management system allows state and private bailiff staff to access case information in real time across Albania.
ALBIS software architecture is based on the IBM FileNetP8 platform, which in collaboration with other components enables case and document management to be compatible with all kinds of institutional or legal rules of the state or private enforcement service. It also enables control and management by the Ministry of Justice of all processes, information and security. See the full list of the software components used here.
So what can we learn from these two projects? Firstly, it is best to keep an up-to-date record of how tech solutions develop over time. This will enable developers in the future to be in a better position to identify bugs and resolve issues as they arise. Secondly, it is often the case that the benefits of using off-the-shelf technologies outnumber the benefits of using a bespoke solution. By using IBM FileNet, a supported product, ALBIS is able to be supported well into the future. This is similar to the Civil Resolution Tribunal that uses a customised version of Salesforce as its case management system. On the other hand, it appears that ICMIS is affected by technical shortcomings due to not adopting off-the-shelf technologies.
However, none of these issues will be overcome if budget allocations to courts for IT purposes continues to be insufficient.
Project Management and Support
The EURALIUS project, “Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania”, is designed as a technical assistance project that will support and assist key Albanian justice institutions to bring their performance closer to EU standards. It is funded by the EU and is led by Dr. Agnes Bernhard. The project team have held a number of round-table discussions and produced a series of documents all commenting on their progress towards a better justice system.
In an effort to engage with legal professionals during this reform programme, Euralius has established Electronic Commentary (“Komentari Elektronik”). The platform aims to present the full spectrum of judicial reform laws.
The Albanian Justice Sector Strengthening Project (JuST) was a USAID-funded multifaceted, five-year project that focused on advancing U.S. objectives in strengthening the rule of law and good governance in Albania, with an emphasis on improving justice delivery and increasing public
demand for accountability in the justice sector.
Other agencies, such as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Austrian Development Co-operation contributed to increasing the efficiency of court proceedings.
The key players
The Digital Agenda of Albania 2015 – 2020 set out Albania’s vision and will to
become a member of the European Union. Although not entirely fit for purpose, a number of the proposed reforms found in this document were then delivered.
Beyond 2020, whether Albania will continue to invest in judicial reform remains unclear. If it does join the EU, will it build on the work already done to join its friends in Holland and try to implement an online dispute resolution service as an adjunct to its system? Or will it go beyond this and continue to work on reforming its processes and systems, as recommended by Euralius? Whatever it chooses to do, due to interventions in the past 10 years, Albania is on the right track to establishing a system that promotes the rule of law and access to justice.
* Albania has launched an e-services platform. The platform, E-Albania, is described as “the government portal where public services found in the offices and physical offices of the institutions are offered electronically thanks to the Governmental Interoperability Platform that interconnects the institutions’ systems with each other. The portal is conceived as a one stop shop where a citizen is registered using his ID card and is served looking for and applying for the service he needs.”
** ICMIS is the same name given to India’s electronic case management solution.