ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has approved the Cuomo administration's contract for new driver's licenses that will have black-and-white photos produced by the highest bidder, prompting a losing bidder to sue.
DiNapoli's approval paves the way for CBN Secure Technologies owned by Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note, to produce the licenses. Its $88.5 million bid was $38 million higher than the current contractor, Britain-based De La Rue North America. State officials estimate the contract, based on the number of licenses ultimately manufactured, is closer to $70 million, rather than the higher estimate provided by vendors.
DiNapoli explored the losing bidders' contention that the Cuomo administration "steered" the bid to CBN, a long-established leader in the field of printing money, including Canadian money and high security documents.
Auditors found "no indication" that CBN was given "insider knowledge or afforded an unfair advantage." Auditors examined the bidding process, but relied on the DMV's technical analysis of the bids.
Neither DiNapoli nor CBN had any immediate comment on the comptroller's six-month review of the bidding process. Another losing bidder who protested, MorphoTrustUSA, declined to comment Thursday.
De La Rue said the process "was profoundly flawed."
"Because we believe the DMV selection process warrants further scrutiny, De La Rue will resume its legal challenge to the decision in state Supreme Court," stated De La Rue, which has the DMV contract for 16 years.
That civil suit is already filed in state Supreme Court in Albany County, but it was suspended until DiNapoli concluded his review.
DiNapoli's auditors sided with the state Department of Motor Vehicles that the requirement of "color options" didn't require use of color photos, as the losing bidders believed. Auditors agreed that phrasing opened the door for the use of black-and-white photos in New York licenses for the first time in decades. Auditors said the bid specifications only required color options for "demographic information and information tags."
Two kinds of plastic used to make licenses are at the heart of the dispute. Teslin, a longtime standard, is a layered material made to have information printed onto it, like paper. Polycarbonate can be etched but only accommodates black-and-white photos.
The losing bidders contended that that DMV unexpectedly allowed the higher-cost polycarbonate material card to be considered. DMV insists polycarbonate is clearly superior because it can't be peeled into layers and reassembled as a fraudulent card.
The losing bidders and some in the industry contend polycarbonate isn't clearly superior. Only CBN offered a polycarbonate card to DMV, risking lost points in the state's contract scoring system. DMV had made cost count for 20 percent of a bid's total score, focusing more on technical aspects so taxpayers would get the best deal.
The losing bidders also produce polycarbonate cards, but didn't propose them because of a state pre-bidding memo that said price was important and the state was trying to reduce costs by 10 percent.
DiNapoli's auditors said they had to rely on the DMV's technical appraisal. DiNapoli could only overturn the DMV's technical analysis if it could be deemed "irrational."
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