NEC responds to Australian biometrics services contract termination

NEC has responded to the recent cancelation of its biometric identity services (BIS) contract with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) over delays to the project, which was originally scheduled to go live in 2017, Computerworld reports. The company says it is “extremely disappointed,” and denied any breach of obligations in the dispute.

According to a company statement, the BIS “was ready to be handed over to the ACIC for System Acceptance Testing when the project was placed on hold by the ACIC.”

The ACIC suspended the contract until June 15 and escorted NEC Australia staff from its Canberra offices earlier this month. After attempts to negotiate alterations to the contract fell through, the ACIC pulled the plug on the reported AUD $52 million (US$38.6 million) agreement. It had been intended to provide fingerprint and facial recognition capabilities to Australian law enforcement agencies, but PwC recommended facial recognition be removed from the contract to cut costs after it was called into review the delayed project in 2017, and found it had overrun cost estimates by millions.

“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,” NEC said in the statement.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently reviewing the BIS project to judge whether the procurement process followed federal government rules, and judge the effectiveness of the project management by ACIC.

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