Unions are calling for the resignation of Justice Minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz as the week’s return to work, and launching of the so-called judicial map, collapsed in chaos.
The greatest offender was the nation’s judicial portal CITIUS – the Latin for rapid.
Far from living up to its name, CITIUS crashed as lawcourts prepared for their return to business.
Despite assurances from Teixeira da Cruz that this was “only to be expected” and easy to solve, the system was still down three days later.
Newspapers made much of the IT chaos, but elsewhere, the president of the Syndicate of Magistrates said this was not the only problem.
“In the Palace of Justice in Setúbal, building works are ongoing as court officials work. There is dust everywhere. Walls are being demolished and as this goes on, false ceilings are falling. Luckily, no one has been hurt, but conditions of safety are not being assured”.
In fact, Cardoso took the law into his hands and sent all his magistrates home, writes Público.
Meantime, the official line as to why CITIUS crashed has spectacularly failed to impress.
Talking to Público, President of the Justice system’s financial management institute, Rui Pereira, suggested the problem was not the system, but a record level of erroneous data entered over the years.
Unions were swift to counter this explanation, suggesting Pereira also should tender his resignation.
“They should all be ashamed of themselves and resign”; Fernando Jorge, representing court office workers told Público. “They are incompetents and liars, and they deceived the Justice Minister who went on TV on Monday to say all was well”.
Another aspect of the shambles became clear as Público reported that the CITIUS system had been cobbled together from a system initially conceived by court workers trying to show willing.
Since then, explained the paper, IT companies had been taken on to help – with two receiving half a million euros just in this year.
On the third day of ongoing troubles, as CITIUS remained inaccessible to a number of courts up and down the country, Fernando Jorge explained the kind of problems courts were facing.
“Officials are alarmed when they realise that not all the cases that get to them are complete. There are details that seem to have been lost along the way, and cases that appear in the system as pending when it turns out that they have already been adjudicated on”.
In Portimão district court alone, writes Público, no less than 600 thousand cases have had to be ‘corrected’.
As the chaos continues, law association spokesperson Elina Fraga has accused Teixeira da Cruz of having dodged the truth – challenging the Justice Minister to go on TV to answer questions “face-to-face”.
As the reorganisation of the nation’s courts continues to generate controversy, unions have now called a national strike for October 26 – with day-long stoppages due to go ahead at every district court in the country from October 1.
At issue now is not only the IT failings that have dogged the courts’ return to work all week, but the “lack of consideration” unions claim they have been subjected to by the government.
Talking to newspapers, president of the court workers’ syndicate, Fernando Jorge, said that “despite all the tasks, transporting of cases, the carrying of furniture and cleaning of court buildings”, workers remain “without answers” to requests for more staff/ back up
by Natasha Donn