–union, Labor lash Coalition for ACIC’s tech wreck

January 24, 2018

Australia’s criminal intelligence commission is paying too much for new technology replacing its fingerprint database, and is likely to get a second-rate product despite spending millions of dollars, the main public sector union says. 

After a PricewaterhouseCoopers report told the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission its IT upgrade was $35 million over budget and significantly delayed, the Community and Public Sector Union said the government’s latest tech headache added to an ever-growing list of problems and cost blow-outs. 

CPSU acting national secretary Michael Tull said the Coalition government should have capped spending on IT contractors and consultants in ACIC. 

“The crime intelligence commission is paying massively over the odds,” he said.

“It’s telling that the government needs consulting giant PwC to even quantify the extent of the problem.

“Directly employing ICT workers is significantly more cost effective and would have provided staff who were better attuned to the needs and potential problems in developing this critical system and in its ongoing management.”

Labor digital economy spokesman Ed Husic said people should be concerned at how seriously ACIC viewed the tech problems, reported by Fairfax Media on Wednesday.

“The fact that the government tried to keep this under wraps for so long shows you how concerned they are about this,” he said.

ACIC contracted multinational giant NEC to deliver the new database, to be used by police to identify criminals and solve crimes, and hoped it would include facial recognition technology.

Eight months from its deadline, it remained untested and far behind schedule following what PwC called a “systemic pattern of delay”.

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The PwC review said the project’s cost had nearly doubled by November to $94.6 million despite Finance Department approval for $52 million in spending.

ACIC declined to comment, but Mr Tull said the damage caused by cost blow-outs was demoralising for staff, particularly given they were not the cause of the problem.

“This over-reliance on outsourcing is also denying workers important skills development and career opportunities.”

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