ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - 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. According to court papers reviewed by The Associated Press, the contract will cost taxpayers nearly $38 million more than the current contract if it's approved.
State DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala released this statement late Wednesday afternoon. "The current contract for the production of driver license and non - driver documents expires in May 2013. As required, DMV issued a Request for Proposals for companies capable of producing the documents after that date. Three companies responded to the RFP. Each of their parent organizations are based outside of the United States. No New York company submitted a proposal, however, the winning bidder is required to produce the license documents in New York. Evaluation criteria were shared with all those submitting bids. The two losing bidders were not selected because their products were inferior with respect to document security and anti-tampering measures that are standard for licenses. Since the driver license serves as a de-facto national identification card, it is extremely important that the documents we provide the citizens of New York are the most secure and least able to be altered or counterfeited. We are confident that the vendor we have chosen will provide the best value for the citizens of New York."
But state lawmakers like Senators George Maziarz, Mark Grisanti, and Tim Kennedy and Assemblyman Sean Ryan are calling on the state comptroller to not approve the contract until all their questions are answered. There is also a petition drive from the Chautauqua County Clerk's Office to overturn the deal.
A source in state government tells wgrz.com that the extra costs are indeed tied to security upgrades in driver's licenses and other documentation as required by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the REAL ID Act. That federal legislation requires state compliance by January 15, 2013. Other states like Louisiana and Pennsylvania have objected to the new federal requirements for licenses because of potential costs factors. The requirements were postponed from 2008 through 2013 as the DHS recognized that states had significant budget issues from the recession.
The apparent 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. One of the firms which lost the bid is De La Rue in England which was the prior vendor. De La Rue spokesman Rob Hutchson says "For the past 16 years De La Rue has been very proud to provide full-color driving licenses to the New York State. We were therefore both surprised and disappointed to learn that De La Rue has not been awarded the contract, although our bid exactly met the requirements of the RFP and at significantly less cost to the New York taxpayer.'
The award to CBN Secure Technology Inc. of Ottawa is 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. A CBN Company official tells 2 On Your Side they are restricted in their comments because of the comptroller's review. But Mark Houlton did say they use different technology to embed a black and white photo in the license. He also says they have current contracts for license production in the state of Virginia and four Canadian provinces including Alberta.