NEC files lawsuit over axed biometrics project

NEC files lawsuit over axed biometrics project

Seeks recovery of costs and expenses

NEC Australia has filed a lawsuit against over the cancellation of the government's Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project.

The technology provider is seeking to recoup costs and expenses incurred during the two-year project to build a new fingerprint and facial recognition system for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's (ACIC).

NEC declined to state the amount sought, but claimed it had made “a substantial investment in the project”.

The company was first contracted for the $52-million-dollar project in 2016 by ACIC’s enforcement information sharing predecessor CrimTrac.

The aim was to replace the existing NAFIS fingerprint system and to add facial recognition capabilities within a year and then support and maintain the new system until 30 November 2022.

In June 2018, the project was suspended, and subsequently cancelled “in light of project delays”, ACIC CEO Michael Phelan said at the time. 

However, NEC Australia claims the BIS system was “substantially built and ready to undergo systems testing by ACIC” at the time of termination, arguing the decision was taken “for convenience”, essentially when the other party is not in breach of contract.

Since the termination last year, NEC said it has unsuccessfully attempted to recover its costs and decided to file legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria “after careful deliberation”.

NEC cited findings by the Australian National Audit Office into the project which started the administration of the project by CrimTrac and ACIC was deficient in "almost every significant respect".

“Despite millions being poured into the BIS project, not a single one of the project’s milestones or deliverables were met and the project was abandoned,” the January report said.

A parliamentary inquiry, also published earlier this year, found the project was “premature” and “poorly scoped”. Phelan told the inquiry that the termination of the contract “cast no aspersion whatsoever on NEC's product”.

“In neither report is NEC criticised for its handling of the BIS project,” NEC added. “NEC Australia maintains it met all terms of its contract and was disappointed and surprised that a decision was taken to terminate at what it deems was beyond the 11th hour in the BIS project.”

"ACIC are unable to provide comment on the on-going legal proceedings of the BIS contract as the matter is currently with the Victorian Supreme Court," an agency spokesman said. 

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Tags NEC Australiabiometric

More about AustraliaAustralian National Audit OfficeBiometric IdentificationNational Audit OfficeNECNEC AustraliaSupreme Court of Victoria

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