Stovepipe databases weaken Vic legal audit

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Stovepipe databases weaken Vic legal audit
Judge's gavel.

Auditor-General makes case for integration.

Victoria's Auditor-General has blamed a lack of integration between the state's legal IT systems for difficulties gauging the success of programs to cut re-offence rates and tracking defendents through the system.

The state's court database, Courtlink, the Victorian Police database and Corrections Victoria databases were designed in isolation to suit individual operations, the Auditor-General Des Pearson noted.

 “Currently, there is no way to track defendants through the criminal justice system," Pearson's report stated.

Resolving the issue was said to be complex and challenging. The state's Department of Justice had been working toward a single integrated technology platform and a set of applications for all Victorian courts and tribunals.

But implementation of the data management system had been delayed and the system was not yet operational in courts.

Rollout of the new integrated system to all courts was scheduled to occur by February next year.

The Auditor-General noted that the current system of "stovepipe" databases had made its own role difficult in producing assessments of Victoria’s Neighbourhood Justice Centres (NJC) and the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP).

The two programs, which targeted reductions in re-offending rates, had cost the Victorian Government $78 million as at the 2009-10 financial year.

While noting promising results from the programs were emerging, the Auditor-General said that weak database design and management meant the programs could not be judged an unqualified success.

Pearson noted that parts of his audit required data in the CISP sample to be manually matched with the records in Courtlink or the databases of Corrections Victoria.

"This matching exercise was resource intensive and time consuming," the audit stated.

The Auditor-General also recommended that the Department of Justice and the Magistrates’ Court give priority to the use of unique identifiers for tracking defendants’ contact within the criminal justice system.

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