This article investigates systemic justice failures within administrative systems and the factors that explain them. Highlighting different conceptions of ‘administrative justice’, it is argued that research has focused upon redress and not enough on how administrative systems operate and the justice problems that arise. After all, this is where much of the action of administrative justice happens. Drawing upon recent and ongoing instances of large-scale systemic failure, the article identifies five factors that characterise such failures and explores their importance. These factors are: communication with individuals and stakeholders; competent decisions and decision processes; resources; accountability; and system culture. These factors in turn provide us with the conditions for operating effective justice within administration. The implications for future research, potential solutions, and the connections between redress and systems approaches to administrative justice are considered. Overall, the analysis seeks to prompt discussion about the causes and solution to justice problems and the scope of administrative justice research.