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The state Department of Motor Vehicles should choose the company it deems is best-suited to provide safe and secure driver’s licenses, but the agency also has an obligation to make its decision as transparent as possible.

The DMV has failed that simple road test by awarding its contract to a Canadian company that was the highest bidder.

Now, local lawmakers, companies that have been left out of the running and New Yorkers in general are crying foul.

One simple question demands an answer: How did this happen?

The state Comptroller’s Office is reviewing the contract and the losing bidders have filed protests and a lawsuit maintaining they met all the specifications, including continuing to have color photos on licenses, but were dismissed unfairly at a significant cost to taxpayers. It turns out that the state was looking for black-and-white photos on the licenses, which the losing companies say they didn’t know.

The other thing they may not have known is that cost apparently was no object. The current vendor, De La Rue North America Inc., had heard from the state that there were “significant budgetary constraints,” and that the state would have to reduce the cost of the contract, according to court filings.

CBN Secure Technology must have received a different message because it bid $88.5 million, nearly $38 million more than De La Rue North America Inc., and won the contract.

New York State has a fistful of problems and not enough dollars to solve them. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just got finished asking the president for some $30 billion in federal emergency money following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. And that’s just one reason why the state cannot afford to throw away tens of millions of dollars. Yet the DMV chose to go with the high bidder.

Granted, CBN is regarded as one of the leaders in secure government documents, and Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala said the two losing bids were judged inferior with respect to document security and anti-tampering measures that are standard for licenses.

Of course, she is absolutely correct that the driver’s license serves as a de facto national identification card and must be as secure as possible.

However, the rules for awarding the contract should be out there for all to see. There may be a good case for going with the high bid; more transparency would have headed off a firestorm.