NEC kicked off $47 million Australian biometrics contract amid delays, cost blowout

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NEC kicked off $47 million Australian biometrics contract amid delays, cost blowout

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has binned a troubled biometric identification project with NEC Australia worth nearly $47 million.

In an announcement posted on the ACIC’s website this afternoon, chief executive Michael Phelan confirmed its Biometric Identification Services project had been discontinued, blaming the decision on project delays.

“The contract with NEC Australia to deliver the BIS project has today been terminated. The project was suspended by mutual agreement on 4 June 2018 while commercial negotiations were ongoing,” Phelan wrote.

Phelan added that the Australian National Audit Office would conduct an audit into the project as requested by ACIC in February this year.

NEC Australia was awarded the contract in April 2016 for $46.8 million following an open tender to deliver biometric identification services.

However, as the project’s June 2018 deadline approached there was little to show for the two years of work, and costs had blown out by some $40 million, according to a report by Fairfax.

NEC Australia said it was "extremely disappointed" with the decision the ACIC has taken, and that its solution was ready to be handed over for system acceptance testing just prior to the project being placed on hold.  

"NEC has worked closely with the ACIC to deliver the BIS project and have clearly demonstrated to the ACIC that we already have a high-quality solution that will meet their needs," an NEC Australia spokesperson added.

"It is important to note that the ACIC terminated the contract under the ‘termination for convenience’ clause, and not because NEC had been in breach of its obligations.

"The termination for convenience clause allows government departments and agencies to terminate a contract, regardless of whether or not the contractor has committed a default or breach of that contract." 

Last week, CRN received reports that security staff had escorted NEC staff off ACIC’s Canberra premises.

InnovationAus reported this week that NEC and ACIC had agreed to put the project on hold, but that on-site staff only became aware once their security access was revoked and they were being moved along.

"NEC remains committed and ready to deliver the BIS solution, regarded as a world-class solution supporting law enforcement agencies in preventing, detecting and reducing crime in our communities," the NEC spokesperson said.

The Biometric Identification Services project was established as a route toward replacing the existing National Automated Fingerprint Identification System in use by law enforcement.

A national facial recognition solution was in development as part of the overhaul to improve the effectiveness of policing and public safety, according to ACIC.

The commission also set out to develop enhancements in imaging tools and identification capabilities using across fingerprints, palm prints and footprints.

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