Quebec takes offences to the Internet

A newly-formed agency spun off from the Quebec Ministry of Justice has begun a $13 million database project to Web-enable the payment of penal and criminal fines.

The Offences and Fines Office of the Quebec Ministry of Justice Thursday said it had awarded the contract to DMR Consulting to build an Office Management and Fine Collection System. In French, this is called the Systeme de gestion des infractions et perception des amends, or SGIPA. The SGIPA will build on the e-commerce functionality offered by the ministry’s Register of Personal and Movable Real Rights, which was developed by LGS Group Inc.

The SGIPA will roll out over the next two years. The first phase, expected to be completed by December of 2002, will allow citizens to access information on their fines and pay them from their desktop. Later, DMR will introduce interactive voice response and imaging capabilities.

“We want to make life easy for the good payers,” said Simon Cantin, manager of the Offences and Fines Office. “A good portion of them pay without any problems. We don’t want to add administrative problems to the legal or criminal fine they had received.”

The project marks a high-tech head start for the Offences and Fines Office, which was formally inaugurated by Quebec Minister of Justice Paul Begin last Wednesday. Three years ago the Ministry began a reorganization to create a separate agency which would report into the Attorney General and collect court-imposed fines.

“The organziation was not really adapted to the needs (of the business) and we were having a lot of problems getting good results with fine expiration,” Cantin said.

The agency collects 400,000 penal offences a year and 100,000 which fall under the criminal code. The SGPIA, however, will be built to handle more than double that. It replaces two databases, one of which was first installed in 1983.

Robert Michon, director of the DMR Oracle Solutions Centre, said the independence of the Offences and Fines Office also means it has more accountability.

“They’re expecting a better rate of fine collection and less overdue accounts by providing better access both to information and payment systems,” he said. So far the government has not charged DMR with extending the SGPIA across other departments. “We’re building this as a standalone system. There’s no cross-referencing with other databases or anything of that nature.”

Besides offering e-payment for citizens, the agency wants to create a more dynamic system to work with the more than 300 government-related departments, including the police, which deals with fines and offences. “In time we will use less and less paper support for working with our (stakeholders),” he said. The Offences and Fines Office also has an agreement with the government of Canada since last year by which it links its system into the federal system and processes penal law infractions at the federal government level that are committed in Quebec.

The agency will finance its development, including the SGPIA, through the benefits related to getting rid of bad debts.

Besides its ability to accomodate the agency’s budget, Cantin said DMR was chosen for its experience with the Oracle platform. It operates a development centre in Quebec on which applications are tested for DMR engagements worldwide.

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