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This article was published 14/11/2018 (797 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After dealing with a months-long transcript backlog that threatened to slow down Manitoba’s courts, the provincial government is in the process of tendering a contract that could result in a transcription firm taking over requests for the verbatim court records.

The province acknowledged it may need to update its court transcript prices as it looks for a company that will both handle requests for transcripts and produce those transcripts, according to a public tender notice that closed late last month.

The notice was posted Sept. 24, when the demand for transcripts in Manitoba courts far exceeded the supply. It says Manitoba Justice wants to "amalgamate" its transcript services by signing a two-year contract with a single contractor that can co-ordinate requests and provide paper and electronic copies of transcripts for all three levels of court in the province.

The transcripts are the official record of what happens in court, and are crucial to the court process.

The provincial Transcription Services Unit accepts requests for transcripts from the public, lawyers, government agencies and self-represented litigants.

Transcribers, who are independent contractors, type out the digital audio recordings that are captured in court.

As the Free Press reported in August, there were too few transcribers to meet the demand and a wait of up to seven months for regular transcripts. As of this week, the estimated wait times were closer to normal: four to six weeks at regular service, seven to 10 days expedited, and three to five business days for a priority-service transcript.

Manitoba Justice said there is currently no backlog of transcript requests.

A spokeswoman for the department said she could not provide more information while the contract-tendering process is ongoing.

For the past five years, Manitoba Justice had been working with a transcription firm in Regina to complete court transcripts, paying Royal Reporting Services annually. In the fiscal year ending March 31, Manitoba paid $128,482 to the firm, the provincial public accounts show.

An employee at Royal Reporting Services has told the Free Press the firm was in negotiations with Manitoba.

This isn’t the first time the province has tried to secure a contract for court transcripts. A request for proposals was issued in January, but it wasn’t open to transcript pricing negotiations because transcript fees in Manitoba are regulated under provincial law, capping the regular cost for requests at $3 per page. That led to concerns the rates being paid to transcribers may have been too low.

This time, the province says it will "take the necessary actions" to recommend fee-regulation changes as it considers proposals, according to the public tender notice.

katie.may@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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