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New electronic statute book
Since January,the Ministry of the Interior has introduced a new electronic collection of laws and international treaties, the so-called e-Collection. It was created to make it easier for the citizens of the Czech Republic to access the current text of laws and decrees. However, the launch of the system is accompanied by a number of problems. What to watch out for?
The intention to introduce an electronic collection of laws was conceived by the state fifteen years ago. However, the development took a long time and citizens have so far been dependent on commercial services in this respect, whether paid systems costing up to tens of thousands of crowns, in which regulations are linked to case law, legal literature and explanatory reports of legal regulations, or, for example, free solutions such as zakonyprolidi.cz.
The new legal system e-Collection is to be divided into two parts – a portal where binding electronic versions of legal acts published in the Collection of Laws and International Treaties will be published and a database of information on legal acts. The latter will contain, for example, past versions of legislation or various related documents such as explanatory memorandums or interpretations by individual authorities. The system should be linked to the European legislative system Eur-Lex. This is also why it is partly financed by the European Union.
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The project, worth CZK 719 million, was supposed to start operating much earlier and was delayed several times at the last minute. The name of the project is: eCollection and eLegislation. The abbreviation used for it is eSeL. The word Esel means donkey in German, but this is undoubtedly a coincidence. However, this donkey’s bridge brings us back to the initial statement that the new system is far from flawless. So what to watch out for?
The full computerisation of legislation was also supposed to be a valuable source of so-called open data. In general terms, these are sets of information published in a way that allows remote access in an open and machine-readable format. Anyone can (at least in theory) download complete legislation from the web in the area and time period of interest.
The data offered by the eCollection server first refers us to another website, and then provides a list of links to files, but the user does not know anything about them. The basic requirement of directness and clarity of data files is therefore not fulfilled here.
One of the essential requirements of open data is that it be accompanied by documentation. This is typically information on how and when the data was obtained, its description or characteristics. However, this open data is not documented. In fact, the documentation itself is missing.
IT specialists also point to other technical shortcomings that open data suffers from, which will make it very difficult to work with. These include, for example, their formatting and the possibility of further technical processing. However, we do not want to go into such details.
Missing legislation and errors in regulations
The basic function that the user expects from the new electronic Collection of Laws is the provision of a complete overview of legislation. Unfortunately, even this was not fulfilled on the date of launch. There were about 100 missing regulations from the end of last year, and even about 170 in the open data.
Errors were found in some of the legislation in the original versions and were subsequently supplemented by editorial corrections of errors. Legendary in this respect is the provision of Section 256 of the Penal Code and its “arranging”, not “arranging” benefit (the correct wording should be “arranging”). However, a number of corrections of editorial errors, including this one, are not reflected in the eCollection.
Non-use of the gov.cz domain regime
Last year, the state apparatus announced a mass launch of the use of the gov.cz domain. Based on the government’s decision, central government bodies and their subordinate organisations should gradually migrate their websites and email addresses to this single 2nd-level state domain this year and by 2025 at the latest. It would therefore be expected that such a large-scale e-project would also meet the government’s requirement. However, the eCollection does not yet envisage this. Of course, additional redirection of the website is proposed, but this does not concern only the e-Sbirka.cz web address itself, but all the individual forms of pages that refer to individual sections of legislation. Each provision of the law has its own URL link. This makes the later transition to the gov subdomain unnecessarily complicated.
The problem of logging into the eCollection is the same. Although the state has introduced and supports electronic identification of citizens (NIA), you cannot log in to the system with it and have to create a new username and password. Why this is the case and why the primary source of regulations in our state does not “talk” to your basic identification is not entirely clear.
Overall, however, the launch of this tool and the gradual digitization of the state, spearheaded by the new DIA agency , Minister Ivan Bartos, is certainly to be commended.