ITD renegotiating contract with software vendor

Image Courtesy: Idaho Transportation Department

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Transportation Department officials are renegotiating with a software vendor at the center of a statewide DMV disruption last year.

Lawmakers learned the department was still undergoing negotiations with Gemalto, a company contracted by the state to produce the STAR card, in a recent meeting with ITD’s Director Brian Ness. The news came several months after DMV offices were forced to close across the state because of a malfunction in the connection between state computers and Gemalto’s software.

Rather than just cutting ties with the company and finding another vendor, ITD officials are reworking their relationship with the company since Gemalto is one of the few vendors capable of printing the STAR card, which will be a required form of ID come October 1, 2020 in order to board a flight or access a federal building.

“I found out this really is a highly specialized vendor that provides something that very few other vendors can provide in that state of Idaho can’t do itself,” Representative Wendy Horman, who serves on the transportation committee, told KID NewsRadio. “So, I believe that’s why they are continuing to negotiate with them.”

Among the top issues on the negotiating table is how much the state will pay Gemalto going forward and what services it will continue to provide.

Vincent Trimboli, Communications Manager with the Idaho Transportation Department, told KID NewsRadio the new system allowed the state to send information in real time to the company who then printed state driver’s licenses with added security features. When the state merged the decades old database system with Gemalto’s modernized system in August 2018, the department had agreed to pay the company $11 million.

“When a customer comes in and does a transaction, let’s say they want to renew their license…they give [the DMV] the documents and go through the transaction process, and they come to a point where they have to do a signature and they have to take a picture,” Vincent Trimboli from the Idaho Transportation Department told KID NewsRadio. “When we were working with the vendor, they would take that picture and that signature and it would, in a live way, in an online way, go straight back to their office and be uploaded to be placed on the new driver’s license.”

Except the real-time process of uploading photos and signatures to Gemalto’s servers, Trimboli said, didn’t last. At the end of August 2018, Gemalto’s connection to the DMV computers completely broke and resulted in a statewide closure of DMV offices.

“It broke to a point where they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it and they couldn’t fix it,” Trimboli said. “We took their software and disconnected it. We then, with our software engineers here in Boise, actually wrote our own program into our modernized system to capture the picture and capture the signatures.”

Trimboli said the solution developed by ITD’s software engineers now allows the state the collect images and signatures to send to Gemalto to create the license. But, the in-house solution and process no longer happens in real time.

“At the end of the day we send it to Gemalto and they take the information and then process and create the driver’s license for the customer,” Trimboli said.

But, some have asked, why continue to contract with the company at all?  Representative Doug Ricks told KID NewsRadio since Gemalto is one the few vendors capable of creating the STAR card, it appears ITD officials feel it’s best to rework the relationship and the cost.

“ITD is going to continue to host the database itself on their own systems and they’re trying to renegotiate the contract to get out of paying the full amount, the $11 million,” Representative Doug Ricks told KID NewsRadio. “One thing I will do is to stay on to this because, you know, it seems a bit of a disaster to pay that much money and then turn around and not be able to use the full amount. So, I am hoping that they are successful in renegotiating that contract down to something that equals the amount of services they will be providing for us. ”

Both Trimboli and Representative Ricks praised ITD’s continued efforts to not only respond to the difficult situation last year, but continue to develop solutions to best serve Idahoans.

“I will commend the Idaho Transportation Department,” Representative Ricks said. “They evaluated the problem and realized that the new vendor wasn’t working out and they did jump in and they found a solution that works much better.”

In the near future, Trimboli said, ITD hopes to provide other tools and resources for Idaho motorists, including an online portal to renew driver’s licenses.

“That’s a huge innovation that we feel like should provide even more support to the folks at the driver’s license offices,” Trimboli said. “Take more people out of lines and just give the customers in the citizens of Idaho more options, and you know, people have been so patient and we really appreciate the patience of our citizens, our customers, and our partners at the counties who have dealt with so much over the last several months. It’s kind of a breath of fresh air to know that there is some relief and things are getting back to normal.”

Listen to Representative Wendy Horman talk with Neal Larson and Julie Mason on KID NewsRadio: