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INCIS Soap Opera Looks Destined To Head To Court

The INCIS soap opera's latest twist yesterday was an unexpected one with IBM calling it a day. Now all parties are crying havoc and have let slip the dogs of legal action.

The overdue project to make information technology a useful tool for police has so far cost more than $132 million dollars, more than $35 million over the initial budget and three years late in completion.

IBM's version of events seems to be at this stage that the Police kept changing the contract and when asked to renegotiate the police and government had been obdurate.

However conflicting stories are emerging over why IBM has pulled out.

IBM pulled out saying that the contract was now far different and more complex to that originally agreed upon between the police and IBM.

IBM spokesman Fred McNeese who is based in Tokyo said the contract originally signed up to by IBM was continually changing. In the 4000 page contract 900 changes had been made.

Mr McNeese said that left IBM doing additional work without being paid for it.

Mr McNeese said the police nowl have a sophisticated system that's infinitely better than the old one.

It seems likely that now the Government and IBM are headed for a court battle.

Finance Minister Sir William Birch said this morning that the Government will either try to force IBM to honour the contract, or will seek compensation, and he isn't ruling out litigation.

Sir William, who was brought in several weeks ago as a troubleshooter, said IBM had offered to complete the contract, but on terms different to those in the original agreement. He said that was unacceptable to the Government.

In turn Sir William Birch said IBM had advised the Crown that it would not honour its INCIS contract obligations.

At present police are left with just stage one of the project operational - the most basic level. The critical crime-fighting parts - stages two and three - remain incomplete.

Cabinet approved INCIS five years ago, and it was expected to be up and running by March 1998.

However the cost blew out to $119 million by December 1997 as problems escalated. This year, with the project nearly three years behind schedule, the final cost was estimated at $132 million.

IBM says it is reassigning the staff who have been working on the project. About 125 consultants have been told their role developing stage two and three of INCIS is now over.

All along Incis has been promoted by the Police Commissioner Peter Doone who is now under increasing pressure to keep his job.

Commenting on this Police Association spokesman Greg O'Connor said "it is pretty hard for the man who has been in charge of the project right from the start to walk away from it".

"That is something Doone is going to have to sort out with his employers," O'Connor said.

Meanwhile Labour's police spokesman, George Hawkins, is calling for a commission of inquiry into what went wrong.

"If there is not a full inquiry I think most New Zealanders will feel doubly cheated - by $100 million and then by not having answers supplied," he said.

IBM says it has made no profit from the Incis project - in fact the computer giant says it has lost a significant amount of money trying to implement the system.

It says legal action to recover those losses is one option IBM is investigating.

This morning Police Commissioner Peter Doone was interviewed on National Radio's morning report and said the police still planned to complete the project.

He implied that the police was investigating options including using other computer companies to complete the project to its original design - which he described as a great design.

(continuing…)

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