ALBANY – Cash-strapped New York has tentatively chosen the highest bidder to produce driver’s licenses under a disputed contract that would provide only black-and-white photos and end up costing the state nearly $38 million more than the current contract if it’s approved.
According to court papers reviewed by the Associated Press, the losing vendors, including the company that has produced New York licenses with color photos for 16 years, are protesting the $88.5 million award to a Canadian company.
The award to CBN Secure Technology Inc. of Ottawa is also being reviewed by the state comptroller.
CBN is part of the Canadian Bank Note company that prints Canadian money, passports and driver’s licenses worldwide. Company officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The DMV tentatively awarded the contract to the high bidder 10 months after New York advised the current vendor, De La Rue North America Inc. that, because of “significant budgetary constraints,” the state would have to reduce the cost of the contract, according to the court filings. As a result, De La Rue submitted a bid 10 percent lower for the new, eight-year contract, which ended up being nearly $38 million less than CBN’s bid.
De La Rue, based in England, and Massachusetts-based MorphoTrustUSA, another unsuccessful bidder, want a rebid.
They claim CBN offered a black-and-white “polycarbonate” card they say is less secure than their color-picture IDs on cards made of “Teslin.” The losing bidders say they also weren’t informed the state wanted a black-and-white polycarbonate card and that CBN received an illegal advantage. De La Rue and MorphoTrustUSA said they could have offered a bid on that type which could save taxpayers’ money.
The lawsuit also claims the state had required a color image ID, a requirement they claim CBN violated.
The driver’s license contract is rebid under the federal “Real ID” measure from the Department of Homeland Security to make licenses more secure and more states are expected to face similar contract decisions.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles won’t comment until the comptroller’s review concludes and the contract award is final.
Trade publications note the CBN technology and black-and-white photos are well-regarded for security in driver’s licenses and other documents.
The losing companies claim poor judgment and mishandling of the bid is apparently to blame for the state’s decision.
“Polycarbonate and Teslin are both highly secure materials suitable for drivers’ licenses,” said MorphoTrust Vice President and General Counsel Scott Boylan. “The key differences are value and flexibility. Polycarbonate is far more expensive than Teslin while providing no additional security benefit. Teslin cards also can accommodate color photos, which enable more security features, whereas polycarbonates cannot.”
The State Comptroller’s Office is now evaluating the bids.
“While I can’t comment on specific contracts, our impartial review of bid protests is essential to protect New Yorkers from millions of dollars in unnecessary costs,” said Kate Gurnett, spokeswoman for State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
“Our bid exactly met the requirements of the [Request for Proposal] and at significantly less cost to the New York taxpayer,” said De La Rue spokesman Rob Hutchison
CBN and De La Rue are close competitors with a long history of providing secure documents including driver’s licenses.