Province Of Quebec Moves To On-line Fine Payment

Quebec’s Offences and Fines Office is set to launch a Web site, which will allow people to pay fines on-line, called the Offence Management and Fine Collection System that will report to the Ministry of Justice.

DMR Consulting and LGS were co-bidders, and will have specific responsibilities in getting the site up and running.

“DMR is bringing our project management and our development skills in the Oracle environment (and) LGS is to put in place the electronic commerce engine which is going to be handling all the transactional pieces over the Internet,” said Robert Michon, the director for DMR Oracle Solution Centre in Quebec City. LGS already had a previous contract with the ministry, where they developed an e-commerce engine, he said.

The initial Web site is slated to open in October but the system should be completely functional by December 2002. The new site, according to the ministry, will attempt to accomplish several objectives.

Citizens will have access to the penal code, so that there will be a greater understanding of how the law will be applied in their case, said Victor Arbour, a director of the Offences & Fines Office for the Ministry of Justice in Quebec. “[We] are expecting that people will be able to pay their fines more easily, and the administrators will be collecting fines more rapidly.” And it appears this has been an ongoing problem for the ministry.

Over the past decade, the ministry has lost more than $150 million in unpaid fines, said Simon Cantin. Cantin, also a director for the Offences & Fines Office in Quebec City, said the situation lead to an entire re-organization. An initiative began several years ago to streamline the two separate offices into one organization that is now responsible for both the collecting of fines and offences.

The need to upgrade technologically was evident in the relative age of the two former operating systems. Cantin said the fines system was built in 1983, while the offence system was built circa 1993. The new collection system will cost $13 million to implement and operate and the initial contract is for eight years with DMR.

The objective of the Quebec government is to offer more services on-line, while offering better efficiency and productivity and better service to their citizens. But the goal is more than just collecting fines. “It’s a matter of justice, because if our court system makes a judgement, and it is not executed, then what is the point of that judgement,” Cantin said.

But whether or not this will increase revenues remains to be seen, as one analyst remains sceptical.

“Historically, it’s been neutral, they haven’t seen it go up or down…With the cost of running the site and the increased revenue, it’s usually a wash,” said Christopher Baum, vice-president of e-government at the Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn. He said this is a case of the provincial government following the federal initiative to have services on-line by the end of 2003. “Since there is such a strong federal push to get Canadian services on-line that is really raising the expectations across Canada to the provinces to do the same thing.” At the same time, he believes it is exactly that push that will lead to the success of the program in the long run.

Another potential problem in Baum’s opinion was if a payment is misapplied on the site, it could show up as not paid, leading to the bench warrant and wrongful arrest of a person.