ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A top Cuomo administration aide on Thursday blasted critics of a contract being awarded to the highest bidder who will produce new driver’s licenses with black-and-white photos he said will be the best safeguard against terrorists and identity thieves.
But the $88.5 million contract to a Canadian company that’s $38 million more than the second-highest bidder was also opposed Thursday by a major retail group. The New York Association of Convenience Stores announced their opposition to the proposed black-and-white photos, saying it would hinder a crackdown on underage drinkers and smokers.
The bid is being reviewed by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli after formal protests and a lawsuit by the apparent losing bidders. The tentative contract award, first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press citing court records, is now being criticized by lawmakers.
"If it is an overbid, (it’s) unacceptable considering the problems we have with Hurricane Sandy, the devastation we see on the Eastern Seaboard," Sen. Mark Grisanti, an Erie County Republican, told WIBV-TV in Buffalo on Wednesday.
The administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded Thursday morning.
"Apparently Sens. Grisanti and (Democratic Sen. Timothy) Kennedy would rather have the low bidders -- all from out of state -- produce a license that can easily be altered by a terrorist, ID thief, or for that matter any 18-year-old with an X-Acto knife who wants to go to a bar," state Director of Operations Howard Glaser said. "The selected bid is a solid polycarbonate card impervious to alteration and it costs a little more per card. The senators should get their facts right, and decide whether they really want to sacrifice New Yorkers’ security to the lowest bidder."
The two apparent losing bidders complain that CBN Secure Technologies was unfairly chosen and seek a rebidding of the contract. The driver’s license contract is part of 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 proposal submitted by De La Rue met or exceeded New York state’s stated requirements in every single respect, including the requirement for the incorporation of color in the driving license," stated one of the apparent losing bidders, De La Rue North America.
"The De La Rue product is a superior high-security product in many respects and offers considerable savings for New York taxpayers when compared with the proposal DMV chose to accept," the company stated. The Britain-based company that had the contract for 16 years also noted it has operated in the U.S. since 1986 and employs more than 180 people in New York, Virginia and Texas.
"We respect the cost and security factors influencing this procurement decision, but the public policy goal of preventing youth access to age-restricted products needs to be considered as well," said New York Association of Convenience Stores President James Calvin.
"Not being able to discern hair color, for example, would make it harder for the cashier to determine if it’s a match," Calvin said. "We hope this decision will be revisited."
Massachusetts-based MorphoTrustUSA also seeks a new bidding process for the contract.
The apparent winning bidder, CBN Secure Technology, is regarded as one of the leaders in the competitive industry of providers of secure government documents. Its other contracts including printing currency and passports.
The DMV chose CBN in a scoring system that put emphasis on the security of the technology. That was 10 months after New York advised the current vendor that because of "significant budgetary constraints" the state would have to reduce the cost of the contract, according to the court filings.