Justice portal “fully operational” as blame game continues

Justice portal “fully operational” as blame game continues

Four months after Portugal’s new online justice portal CITIUS crashed, bringing the country’s courts to a near standstill for 44 days, justice officials are now saying the portal is “fully operational”.

In a recent statement, the IGFEJ (the justice ministry’s financial management institute) guaranteed the portal is running “at 100%” since December 31 and that employees are expected to begin working within their deadlines again.

But while Fernando Jorge, president of the judicial workers union, has confirmed that the system is working “well enough” for now, he rejects the IGFEJ statement that it is “fully operational”.

“This is an overstatement. CITIUS has always had problems,” he said. The portal crashed on September 1, leaving 3.5 million legal cases in virtual limbo.

The answer, he says, is setting up a new court system as even members of IGFEJ have admitted the current system “might crash again in the next two or three years and data could become unrecoverable.

“A new computer system for courts has to be developed and I don’t see anything being done,” he said, adding that as elections are just around the corner it is likely that the situation will keep “dragging on”.

Add to all this the fact that the courts are under-staffed – data from the Ministry of Justice itself shows that courts are short of 1,000 employees – and the union president believes the scenario is just as bleak as ever.

“The Ministry of Justice has announced four times that it will be hiring 600 people but it never does,” Jorge pointed out, explaining that even if it did so now, bureaucratic details and the fact that new employees would have to undergo six months’ training would mean they would only start working around the end of the year.

Meantime, the blame game continues among justice officials.

PJ technicians Hugo Tavares and Paulo Queirós, who were cast as the villains of the CITIUS crash and removed from their responsibilities at IGFEJ, are reported to be planning to sue justice minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz and IGFEJ officials Rui Pereira and Carlos Brito “for false accusations and defamation”.

Other reports suggest that Rui Pereira, the president of IGFEJ, and Carlos Brito, one of the main computer technicians behind CITIUS, are just “one step away from being fired”.

Diário de Notícias writes that Pereira and Brito had been “asked to resign” on Monday (January 5) but both refused.

The Ministry of Justice, as well as Pereira and Brito, have declined to comment.

By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]