Information technology in the Finnish Enforcement
(Juhani Toukola, Director General of the National administrative office for enforcement of Finland Republic)
In Finland enforcement of court judgments is carried out by the enforcement authorities. In the court proceedings the payment liability is ordered on the debtor and in the enforcement proceedings the liability is carried out compulsorily. Enforcement authorities also collect many public debts, which are distrainable without a court judgment. In these cases the right to a direct enforcement is based on law.
In enforcement proceedings information technology has become more and more important. It is nowadays the most essential implement in our work.
IT was put into operation in the Finnish Enforcement institution in the beginning of the 1980’s when the centralised enforcement information system was created. The enforcement information system is an information system maintained with the help of automatic data processing. It was established for the management of various functions on enforcement authorities and intended for the national use of enforcement authorities. The Enforcement Information System includes the enforcement register, which is maintained and operated for the performance of the tasks of the enforcement authorities. The register consists of the national directory and the locally maintained registers. The purpose of the information system and the enforcement register is to promote the appropriate and debtor-based consideration of enforcement matters, electronic services as well as the performance of the management, guidance, inspection and monitoring functions over the administration of enforcement as well as the keeping of statistics.
Almost 90 percent of incoming enforcement matters are nowadays received electronically. An application for enforcement may be submitted through the judicial administrations electronic services
(on web), if the judgment has been filed in the register of judgments. Applications for the enforcement of directly distrainable receivables may also be submitted via the electronic service after the applicant has registered as an online applicant. Creditors can also file enforcement requests online directly through the enforcement database if the National Administrative Office for Enforcement has given a permission for it. Permission for filing requests in this way can be given in both civil and public cases. Requesting enforcement through the database is usually the most practical method in public cases, as such debts are usually directly distrainable and a creditor often has very many enforcement matters to send to the authorities.
The enforcement officer shall search, to the extent warranted by the circumstances, for assets belonging to the debtor in order to obtain payment for the applicant. The enforcement officer has the right, notwithstanding the provisions on secrecy, to obtain free of charge the information, documents and materials provided by other authorities and third parties if they are necessary for enforcement in a given enforcement matter. Most of the information is provided by way of an electronic interface. Information about debtors bank accounts and transactions is being transmitted to the enforcement information system within 24 hours from the enquiry made through the system. Same applies to the basic information about debtors incomes and assets provided by the tax office. More detailed information about legal persons tax and custom obligations are being transmitted to the enforcement information system in the form of the compliance report by the Grey Economy Information Unit. This authority gathers information on debtors income and property and provides it to certain authorities like police, customs, tax and enforcement authorities. At the moment enforcement officer has separate access to the land register, vehicle register and business register. In the future the information included in those registers will also be provided by way of an electronic interface directly to the enforcement information system. The enforcement information system is currently moving into a web-browser based system and injunctions given by enforcement officers will be delivered automatically to the banks, land register, vehicle register etc.
The information technology systematizes the everyday work of an enforcement officer when arranging the debtors into different work piles and when transmitting replies to enquiries within a day through the electronic interface. In the future the focus is to evolve the real time reporting which will ease the allocation and the follow-up of work contribution. The filing system will be electronic in which the documents will be easily found afterwards.
Everybody can also use such electronic services as a report of debtors enforcement matters during the past two years or using a counter that shows how much the attachment of salary would bring in a certain case.
So, the information technology serves the debtors, the creditors, the public and other authorities and other interest groups. Moreover IT searches income and property, draws up documents, provides them to those concerned, organizes work and so on. So, in fact, it is a main tool.
At the moment there is a reformation of the enforcement organization under preparation. There will be one, national enforcement authority replacing the 22 enforcement offices that we currently have. Along with the reformation of the enforcement organization, there will also be improvements on the IT-field. In the future we will receive all of the applications from the legal persons and public corporations electronically. The electronic services are also under development. The creditors will have a view to all of their enforcement matters and for example possibility to make alterations to their contact details or amounts of the debts in consequence of the voluntarily made payments and to receive receipts of the payments. The debtors will have an access to the information concerning their enforcement situation and receive mail from the enforcement authority through the electronic services. Mail can already today to some extent be received electronically if the debtor or creditor uses a national electronic service.