Questions dog $10m police CARD system

Questions continue to surround both the tendering process and the eventual usefulness of the $10 million police and fire emergency despatch system. A police association advocate has listed a number of problems with the project, and an unsucccessful tenderer is complaining about the way Intergraph won the contract.

Questions continue to surround both the tendering process and the eventual usefulness of the $10 million police and fire emergency despatch system.

Police Association advocate Greg Fleming says the business case for CARD (communication and resource deployment) was poorly executed and there are both technical and human resource problems with the project.

“There are clear problems that weren’t foreseen and that should have been foreseen with a little less haste and a little more diligence,” he says. Stories that CARD is not working are not true, he says.

“I wouldn’t go quite that far.” However, early shortcomings were not identified before the system went live in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and staff were not trained sufficiently to use it properly.

The intention is for CARD to be used to despatch police nationally, and not just in the main centres, in the next year. Both police and fire services are involved, and it has always been envisaged that ambulance services would join at some point. However, the association queries how useful a nationwide service will be.

“The question remains over the ability to replicate local knowledge to a national level. We don’t believe (CARD) is an improvement at this point."

The association is in weekly meetings with Police management and Fleming says the attitude has been “encouraging”. Police deputy commissioner Barry Matthews agrees that there have been problems.

“We have had to make some significant changes in terms of training and support,” he says. The despatch system won’t be extended out to the rest of the country “until we have got every last glitch out”.

CARD is similar to the system operated in Victoria, Australia, which failed spectacularly (and tragically) during the recent bush fires. There are a few important differences — for example, the New Zealand system is run on Windows NT rather than Unix. Since the fires, trials run by the Victorians have found their system to be more reliable on NT. As a result, they are likely to switch it to NT.

The Victorian operation though is outsourced from the emergency services, and is run by Intergraph as a separate unit called Intergraph Public Safety (IPS). The New Zealand operation is — at this point anyway — run in-house.

A further point of connection between the two is that Greg Batchelor, who has been the New Zealand Police director of information and technology, is leaving to manage IPS. The Police are still advertising for a replacement.

The other parallel is that in both cases the two finalists for the contract were Intergraph and Tandem, and in both cases Tandem lost out. Furthermore, Tandem is still sore about the whole process.

“I am unhappy about the tactics that Intergraph used to secure business,” says Tandem Australia managing director Graham Frost.

“Our understanding was we were the technical recommendation in both those tenders, we got the technical nod, then certain things happened that caused us not to win the agreement.” He won’t say what those things are.

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