One of the losing bidders for the state's new auto safety inspection contract said Monday the Transportation Department could have avoided a lot of problems if it paid just 16 cents more for each safety decal.
"We are concerned, I mean, don't get us wrong. And so we are looking at ways that we can improve it, but the fact is that the data itself is not being lost," said Deputy State Transportation Director Jadine Urasaki.
Urasaki said safety check records are still accurate in a computer database available to law enforcement, even if the new stickers can be altered and are subject to fraud because they can be wiped clean with common household cleaners.
Last month, Hawaii News Now discovered that the state's new auto inspection safety stickers are vulnerable to fraud, because simple cleaners such as rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover can be used to wipe off the printing from them quite easily.
A man from the Big Island of Hawaii said he spilled brake cleaner on his safety sticker and erased part of one number.
"It's fraud. It's just easy for somebody to tamper with the stickers," said Bill Delaney, the president of Worldwide Environmental Products, based in Orange County, Calif., that was the second-lowest bidder for the safety check program and did not win the contract.
"The state should require the vendor to come up with a solution or cancel the contract or re-bid or do something," Delaney said.
Urasaki said the state does not plan to cancel the contract, because she claimed the vendor has met all its requirements and the contract did not call for the stickers to be durable to acetone-based cleaners like nail polish remover.
But she said state is working with contractor Parsons Environmental to come up with options to improve the stickers' durability, while trying to keep the costs down.
"Lamination was talked about. But again, that has to be balanced with the amount of costs that each person would now have to be paying," Urasaki said. "Right now we're working with the contractor to kind of look into all the allegations and all the complaints to see how we can best address it."
Parsons Environmental was the low bidder and got the DOT contract so the state is paying the company $1.69 for each auto inspection carried out by roughly 566 gas stations and mechanics statewide in a an updated iPad-based system.
Delaney said his company's bid would have cost the state 16 cents more, or $1.85 per inspection. But he said his company's decal is much more durable because it's created with a more expensive printing ribbon that each service station or mechanic could use.
Monday, Hawaii News Now scrubbed the losing bidder's decal with nail polish remover and found it held up very well.
"I'm pressing down really hard here, I've been going back and forth for a while and it doesn't seem to be degrading much at all," said reporter Keoki Kerr as he cleaned the decal.
"It's very much a case that sometimes you get what you pay for and maybe the state just didn't catch it," Delaney said. "But I hope they're not being duped and I just think they should make sure they get what they required."
About 900,000 auto safety inspections are conducted at roughly 566 gas stations and auto mechanics across the state. At that rate, a 16-cent increase per inspection would have cost the state DOT about $144,000 a year.
The state Senate is demanding answers about the sticker problems. A resolution that passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee Monday called on the DOT to "correct the defects of the vehicle safety inspection decals and to develop protocols that will ensure quality control standards of its programs."
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