The Australian Federal Police has cancelled its $145 million investigation systems replacement and sacked integrator Elbit Systems after deciding the project had become irretrievable due to time, cost and functionality shortcomings.
The project aimed to move the AFP off its 18-year-old PROMIS system, the case management tool officers use to document investigations and store the force’s operational information and intelligence.
The AFP confirmed to iTnews that “despite the best efforts of both parties” the agency had decided its best bet was to start over again with a new systems integrator.
It declined to comment further on the matter, including to advise how much the agency has already spent on the project.
The AFP signed two five-year contracts (for licensing and implementation) with the Australian subsidiary of Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems in June 2013, with a combined value then estimated at $29.5 million.
Those agreements have now been cancelled, it said.
“Since formally starting the project, the AFP and [Elbit Systems Australia] have been working together to formulate detailed systems requirements. This process has taken more time than anticipated,” an AFP spokesperson said.
“Despite the best efforts of both parties, it became increasingly clear that there would be significant challenges in meeting project objectives in terms of functionality, time for delivery and cost.”
According to heavily redacted documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws, the project went through its last periodic gateway review at the hands of the Department of Finance’s major projects assessment team in October 2014.
Finance secretary Jane Halton wrote to AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin in January 2015 about the findings of the review - which have been removed from the released papers.
However, the AFP has confirmed it asked Elbit to come up with a “revised proposal” for the delivery of the project in the subsequent months, which was submitted in June 2015.
Elbit’s new plan triggered the agency’s decision to cancel its agreements with the supplier only two years into the contract.
Elbit Systems has been contacted for comment.
The failure is not the first time the AFP has been forced to call off an attempted replacement of PROMIS.
FOI documents reveal the AFP’s first hunt for a replacement kicked off in 2007, but after failing to find an appropriate solution on the market, the AFP decided instead to go with a “component-by-component, in-house replacement” of the case management platform.
However, after 18 months working to build its own system, “the true complexity, risks and cost associated with this approach” became fully evident.
The AFP then decided to turn to the market once again, this time for a commercial-off-the-shelf-solution in accordance with the government's recently issued COTS procurement policy.
The out-of-the-box solution settled upon was the Elbit product, and the scope of the project was expanded to take in the replacement of the AFP’s evidence management system and complaint recording and management system.
Back in August 2013, the commander in charge of the spectrum program, Andrea Quinn, told iTnews the Elbit solution had been chosen because it was “intelligence focused” and already had a proven track record of deployment inside Israel’s government sector.
FOI documents describing the project’s background said it became "increasingly difficult and costly to modify the existing system to the AFP’s range of operational requirements”. Similarly, the documents revealed maintenance costs continued to rise due to the ageing technology PROMIS is built upon.
The rollout had been expected to take 43 months, concluding in March 2017.
Despite the significant setback, the AFP still insists it plans to have a new system operational by the 2018-19 year - at which time PROMIS will have passed its 20th birthday.
It claimed the “significant work done to date will be invaluable in informing the AFP's future approach to the development of a replacement system”.
“The AFP is committed to replacing our current operational systems. Our focus is now on seeking options for a replacement as a matter of priority,” the spokesperson said.