Govt terminates NEC’s multimillion-dollar biometric identity project

Govt terminates NEC’s multimillion-dollar biometric identity project

The contract for the project was worth up to $52 million over several years

The Federal Government’s Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has officially terminated its Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project with NEC Australia after it was hit by delays.

“The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has decided to discontinue the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project,” a spokesperson for the Commission told ARN on 15 June. “This decision was taken in light of 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,” the spokesperson said.

NEC was awarded the contract for the project in May 2016, by CrimTrac, which has since become the ACIC, with the six-year deal worth upwards of $46.8 million, according to tender documents, although reports at the time put the project’s price tag at $52 million.

NEC Australia won the contract to deliver Biometric Identification Services (BIS) during 2017, along with ongoing management and support services for five years following. The contract was meant to stretch from April 2016 until November 2022.

The BIS project was aimed at delivering a national solution for facial recognition in a bid to transform Australian law enforcement and national border security agency capabilities.

Specifically, NEC’s facial recognition technology would be used to assist policing for the purposes of identification and rapid identification using mobile capture devices.

The project was launched to develop a platform that would replace CrimTrac’s National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS).

As reported by Denham Sadler at media outlet InnovationAus on 12 June, NEC Australia staff members were escorted from the building in which the project was being undertaken after it was suspended by the Commission on 4 June.

Now, the Australian National Audit Office is conducting an audit into the project after a request by the ACIC in February 2018.

“The ACIC is committed to delivering projects that enhance capability for our law enforcement partners,” the spokesperson for the Commission said. “As part of this approach we regularly review the scope, expected benefits and ongoing feasibility of our projects.

“The ACIC is committed to providing national criminal information and intelligence services, including fingerprint data, to more than 70,000 police officers and other accredited users on a daily basis, to keep them and the Australian community safe,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for NEC Australia said the company is "extremely disappointed" by the Commission's decision to terminate the BIS project, noting that it was terminated under a "termination for convenience" clause, and not due to any breach of contractual obligation by NEC Australia.

"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 spokesperson said.

According to NEC Australia, the BIS solution was built with data migrated from the legacy system it was intended to replace on 14 February 2018, and was ready to be handed over to the ACIC for System Acceptance Testing when the project was placed on hold by the Commission.

"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," the spokesperson for the company said.

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