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An external audit of D.C. Superior Court’s $14 million case-management system reveals lax financial controls that could expose the court to vendor fraud, employee embezzlement, or financial mismanagement. The CourtView software system does not comply with generally accepted accounting principles for government entities and violates dozens of contract requirements, according to the report by accounting firm Williams, Adley & Co. CourtView also increases employee workloads and “risk exposure” because court employees must manually transfer large amounts of data between systems, the Dec. 15 report states. D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III says the audit report, which cost $60,000 in public funds, was not publicly released because it is part of “confidential contract negotiations.” Legal Times obtained a copy of the report from a source last week. “I don’t think they are very serious,” King says of the audit findings. “I’m not going to comment on the details because they are the subject of ongoing [end-of-contract] negotiations.” King says financial applications are a minor part of CourtView. He adds that “minor financial shenanigans” have been caught by a separate financial software system and the chief financial officer. He would not elaborate on those “shenanigans” or any financial losses suffered by Superior Court. “There weren’t problems lying in the weeds that we didn’t notice,” King says. “There are always bugs, but this audit was requested to specify areas where we contend the contractor failed to provide what we contracted for.” Although court officials have downplayed problems with CourtView as minor, the audit report paints a slightly different picture. Court officials commissioned the audit because of “many problems experienced during implementation and failure of the system to perform to full expectation,” the report states. Since its launch in 2003 in D.C. Family Court, CourtView has been used to integrate 18 outdated databases into a single case-management system across most divisions of Superior Court, providing the official dockets and case files for court cases, some accounting services, and other functions. Although Superior Court does use a separate financial software system called Peachtree, reconciliation of transactions between CourtView and Peachtree is “difficult and manually intensive,” the audit report states. CourtView also cannot generate standard financial reports, query financial data, or warn court employees if the cutting of a check will result in a negative balance, the audit report states. CourtView can create checks but cannot print them, meaning clerks must manually enter information into Peachtree before checks can be printed. Other problems surfaced last year with CourtView after its rollout in the Criminal Division, with defense attorneys complaining about mistaken bench warrants and missing paperwork from case files. Judge Brook Hedge, chairwoman of the court’s technology and automation committee, said last year that those problems were small glitches that had been fixed. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT Court officials have begun negotiations with contractor BearingPoint after finding that CourtView does not comply with all requirements of the $14.3 million, five-year contract. But King says the contract, which expires later this year, is not in default. The ongoing problems with CourtView could create a bigger tab for taxpayers. In its 2007 budget request to Congress, the D.C. Courts asked for $2.3 million in additional funds and six new employees for technology improvements, including needed upgrades for CourtView. King says he doesn’t know how much of the requested funds specifically relate to CourtView. The audit report reveals why more employees may be needed: CourtView’s lax internal controls require that “manually intensive procedures and workarounds [be] created to validate transactions prior to payment.” Superior Court also wants $619,000 and 12 new employees under the Clerk of Court for “identity consolidation.” The audit found that CourtView cannot create unique identification numbers to track the financial history of each defendant or vendor across the case-management system. King says it is a “devilishly complicated and expensive process” to provide for identity consolidation throughout the court’s 18 former databases now in CourtView. King says BearingPoint is not responsible for costs for those improvements, even though the audit states that CourtView violates a contract requirement for identity consolidation. BearingPoint, a technology and consulting firm, believes the audit report is “erroneous and that the auditor’s lack of familiarity and understanding of the [CourtView] application has led to an inaccurate assessment of the system’s capabilities,” according to a statement last week from BearingPoint spokesman Steve Lunceford. “BearingPoint has implemented a system that works as contractually promised, and we are in the final acceptance phase of the implementation with the [D.C.] Courts,” Lunceford stated in an e-mail. BearingPoint partnered with Maximus to use its copyrighted CourtView case-management system in the contract. Maximus, a publicly traded technology company in Reston, Va., calls CourtView its flagship product for courts nationwide. A Maximus spokeswoman did not return phone calls seeking comment. King says CourtView has performed well and is a big improvement over the prior hodgepodge of databases. CourtView has met accreditation and best-practice standards for software development set by the Software Engineering Institute. In 2002, court officials also acted upon suggestions from the General Accounting Office to tighten contract requirements before BearingPoint was selected, King says. Anne Wicks, the D.C. Courts’ executive officer, and Hedge did not respond to interview requests last week. Because of the ongoing contract negotiations, King would not comment on whether court officials will demand that BearingPoint fix or pay for the problems listed in the audit report. “It’s going to be a question of where we end up at the end of the [closing contract] discussions as to who does what and what the contract requires,” King says.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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