This article first appeared in Modern Insurance Magazine Issue 33, August 2018
A recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report was scathing about the ongoing IT programme to transform the HM Courts and Tribunals Service. The Committee Chair said: “Government has cut corners in its rush to push through these reforms. The timetable was unrealistic, consultation has been inadequate and, even now, HMCTS has not clearly explained what the changes will mean in practice.” Of course, this is not the first time that a Government IT project has been tormented by major problems. In justice, the Libra System for Magistrates springs to mind.
The newly proposed Litigant-in-Persons Portal for RTA claims is neither public sector, being developed by the Motor Insurance Bureau with an outside private sector IT contractor, nor anything like on the same scale as big government projects, with a budget of several million pounds versus the billions that some of these schemes have cost.
Nevertheless, there are some recurring common themes from past IT failures that MoJ and the MIB would do well to take on board. Far from saving money, many of the schemes ended up costing more money than they were supposed to save. Insufficient testing resulted in severe problems that were then more difficult to resolve. They were frequently too rushed in their implementation. Ill-advised policy ambitions and poor and inadequate planning led to unforeseen and unintended consequences.
The recent announcement that the target date for implementation of the Portal has been put back to April 2020, with testing beginning in October 2019, is very welcome. There is also at least an appearance of consultation with some deeply sceptical stakeholders on the architecture of the project. Nevertheless, these are all lessons that can be directly translated to the development of the LIP Portal.
Of course, with no public expenditure, there is no prospect of the PAC scrutinising the efficacy and value of the LIP Portal in the future. The new Portal’s success or failure will have to be judged by others. It is likely to be the thousands of accident victims, that may feel a strong sense of injustice when the system lets them down, that will be the most ferocious critics.
Simon Stanfield, author of ‘Learning from past mistakes’ is Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS) and a Partner at Simpson Millar