The technology firm that signed up to deliver the nation's biometric identification system, which has since been abandoned, is suing the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in the wake of the decision to ditch the project.
The firm, NEC Australia, has taken the matter to the Victorian Supreme Court. It is the latest turn in a long-running saga over the project which was abandoned in June last year, despite NEC claiming to have substantially completed the work.
The company was originally chosen by CrimTrac, the commission's predecessor agency, in 2016 to upgrade the national fingerprint-based identification system used by police around the country with the $53 million multi-modal fingerprint, facial and fusion system.
An audit into the project found the commission's management of the project was poor. While it made no critical findings against NEC's work, it wasn't technically auditing the company.
"While CrimTrac's management of the BIS procurement process was largely effective, the subsequent administration of the BIS project by CrimTrac and ACIC was deficient in almost every significant respect," the report said.
The audit office found despite spending $34 million on building the system, none of the project's milestones or outcomes were ultimately met before the commission decided not to pursue it further last year, terminating it for convenience - where the company was not in breach of contract.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers report also found the estimated cost of the new system had almost doubled to $94.6 million despite the Department of Finance only approving spending $52 million - funds that did not end up being spent due the cancellation of the contract.
The company said in a statement that despite pursuing alternative remedies, it had now decided to take the matter to court in an effort to recoup the firm's costs.
"As a result and after careful deliberation, NEC Australia has decided to take legal action to recoup its costs directly related to the project by commencing legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria," the company said in a statement.
"NEC Australia maintains it met all terms of its contract and was disappointed and surprised that a decision was taken to terminate at what it deems was beyond the 11th hour in the BIS project.
"NEC fully respects the right of the ACIC and its chief executive officer to terminate a contract for reasons they see fit.
"Nevertheless a substantial investment in this project was made by NEC and the company is simply seeking to have the investment at the time the contract was terminated for convenience, returned."
The company would not detail its financial claim against the commission. The commission would not comment on a matter before the courts.