IDEMIA wins second-chance contract to support Australian national biometric system

Australia’s national fingerprint database will be supported for the next five years by IDEMIA under a new AUD $34.2 million (US$24.4 million) contract signed with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), iTnews reports. The contract came available after ACIC cancelled a contract with NEC Australia in June, 2018, to extend the capabilities of the CrimTrac system to include face and palm biometrics.

The CrimTrac system was originally built by Morpho, before it became IDEMIA, and NEC was awarded the contract to build the next generation of the system in 2016. The submissions for that contract by Morpho and NEC were the only ones among 12 to meet the procurement requirements. The project was suspended amid delays and cost overruns shortly before its cancellation, and while the ACIC said the cancellation saved it $47 million ($33.5 million), some $34 million was spent on the contract, which was originally for $52 million, and the country’s National Audit Office called the project’s management “deficient in almost every significant respect.”

IDEMIA was awarded a $20.3 million ($14.5 million) contract to continue supporting the national automated fingerprint identification system (NAFIS) when the NEC contract was cancelled, according to iTnews, and has now agreed on the additional $34.2 million to support its long-term stability.

“The proposed extension of the support services agreement with IDEMIA continues the existing NAFIS capability with no interruptions to partner agencies and provides a significant reduction in annual fees by giving a long-term commitment,” a government spokesperson told iTnews.

It is not clear if the new contract involves building any new capabilities into the system, but recent experience seems to have made the ACIC more cautious in its approach.

“Later on we will explore opportunities again to determine how best to go forward with other biometrics including facial recognition to fuse them with the fingerprint system, but to be quite frank I want to be able to walk before we can run,” agency CEO Michael Phelan told a senate inquiry in December.

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