The Fair Work Commission’s brand new online case management system was abruptly taken offline overnight due to numerous critical errors and technical difficulties, with users calling the system “a clusterfuck” and an “absolute debacle”.
The Commission announced the new eCase online case management system earlier this year, which was positioned as a way to help businesses and individuals to apply and respond to applications such as unfair dismissal claims and award disputes.
In a statement on August 9, the Commission announced it would be launching the new system in August, touting it as a way to facilitate “reducing administrative burden and delivering better access to quality and timely information”.
Eight days later, the Commission said it would be taking down its legacy online lodgement service to put the new eCase system into place, and on August 20 the new system launched.
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However, just 10 days later, the Commission announced on its website the eCase system is “currently unavailable”, with no indication of when the system will be reinstated. Those with accounts set up through eCase are unable to access their accounts and instead are receiving an error message.
Unfinished applications lodged through the system will need to be re-lodged manually through one of the Commission’s offices.
The Commission states the shutdown is due to a number of “technical difficulties” and does not elaborate further. However, SmartCompany understands the level of errors in the new eCase system is extremely high, and users are questioning how it could have been launched with so many errors.
A person with knowledge of the situation, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told SmartCompany the eCase system is deeply unpopular with employees at the Commission. Many employees have no understanding of how to use the new system, says the person, describing it as the “biggest clusterfuck ever”.
SmartCompany also understands the system was meant to launch on July 30, but was pushed back due to not being ready in time. Despite this, the launch went ahead in August and has faced more than 200 critical technical issues requiring resolution, the person says.
SmartCompany understands international software development company Appian was involved with building the eCase system. The company lists the Fair Work Commission as a customer on its website, and offers case management platforms as part of its software suite.
According to government tender tracking website AusTender, the Fair Work Commission paid Appian a total of $3,256,691 in January this year for a three-year software development contract from October 2017 to September 2020. It is not clear if this contract is directly related to the building of the eCase case management software.
Software caused “delay and destruction”
One workplace lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told SmartCompany the eCase rollout has been an “absolute shambles”, with listings for different matters being posted on the system at wrong times and for entirely different days.
According to this lawyer, the issues are also affecting more than just businesses and applicants. Commissioners themselves are also struggling to use the “completely inoperative” system and are unable to list matter or court files, the lawyer says.
Emails about matters are also being sent to the wrong people, or with the wrong names attached, with once in-house lawyer apparently receiving multiple emails meant for a union secretary regarding an industrial action matter.
“It’s causing delay and destruction,” the lawyer says.
“The whole jurisdiction relies on being able to deal with matter quickly and efficiently. I just don’t understand how they can roll out something so flawed.”
The level of incompetence has surprised this lawyer, who says the Commission has traditionally been well ahead when implementing new technologies. They question why the new system was necessary at all, as the last system was “working so well”.
“This is completely out of the blue,” they say.
SmartCompany contacted the Fair Work Commission and Appian but did not receive a response prior to publication.