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Report blasts overbudget and delayed Australian biometric database replacement project

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) is AU$35 million (US$28 million) over budget and has “little to show” for a contract with NEC to replace its fingerprint database, The Canberra Times reports.

The new database was supposed to be completed in June, and include images for facial recognition, but a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers claimed that the project has fallen behind schedule due to a “systemic pattern of delay.” It also said that despite being approved by the Finance Department for $52 million (US$42 million), the system had cost $94.6 million (US$76 million) as of November.

The report also said that the project is “a high risk to the ACIC,” and that “”(t)here is low confidence in likelihood of delivery which requires focus to achieve turnaround,” according to the Times.

It recommended that the ACIC consider moving forward without facial recognition capabilities, which could save AU$8.4 million (US$6.7 million), and reduce the scope of the project. Is also said the agency will have to negotiate a new schedule with NEC, and extend the current contract with its legacy database provider.

PwC said the project’s problems were caused by poor communication, operational silos, limited collaboration, and a failure to estimate its complexity. It also blamed inconsistent project management, unclear roles, insufficient resources, and capability problems at ACIC and NEC, and said changes had led to budget expansion of over $35 million.

“The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is working collaboratively with NEC to deliver BIS to support our law enforcement partners to prevent, detect and reduce crime in our communities,” ACIC chief executive Michael Phelan commented, according to the Times.

The legacy database was used for 1.48 million searches last year.

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