Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 13, 2012

DMV taps high bidder for licenses — which may soon go grey

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.

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