Australian government suspends biometrics services contract with NEC

A Biometric Identification Services project for which NEC Australia has been working with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC, formerly CrimTrac) has been suspended pending further contract negotiations, InnovationAus.com reports.

The project to replace the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System run by ACIC with a multi-modal service to include footprints and facial recognition is behind schedule and over-budget, and reportedly returning a high number of false positives. InnovationAus.com also reports that the AUD $52 million (US$39.6 million) contract won by NEC Australia in May 2016 is believed to have passed $100 million ($76.1 million) in costs.

An internal NEC Australia email seen by InnovationAus.com says the project had been suspended until June 15 by mutual agreement. NEC Australia staff have had access revoked and were asked to leave the Canberra ACIC office after the project was suspended.

The project was due for completion in June of this year, with NEC Australia providing support until 2021, but PwC was brought in to review the project last year when it became clear the deadline would not be met. The report from PwC, which has not been publicly released, found the project had cost $94.6 million ($72 million) by November, 2017, and recommended that facial recognition be removed from the contract to cut costs, according to InnovationAus.com.

NEC has won several other contracts for biometric technology in the country, including one reported late last year for an advanced real-time video surveillance system.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs is pressing ahead with a national facial recognition program, despite controversy about its allegedly changing scope.

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