Friday, July 20, 2012

University Of Illinois Gets Second Rap On The Knuckles Over Architect Contract

Wednesday, July 18, the Illinois Procurement Policy Board unanimously rapped University of Illinois administrators on the knuckles over the award of a $4.3 million architecture contract to a firm partly owned by the husband of a university administrator involved in the architect selection process. This second stinging rebuke will sent the matter to the Illinois Inspector General for investigation. The Procurement Policy Board again voted 4-0 to recommend voiding the two year old architecture deal, based on findings that the university administration violated state law when it failed to bring the potential conflict of interest to the attention of the state’s chief procurement officer for higher education Ben Bagby at the time the contract was initially awarded in 2010. Bagby, however, has remained adamant in his defense of the arrangement.

On completing its review of the situation, the Illinois Inspector General’s office can recommend referral of the issue to state or federal prosecutors, or the firing, fining or suspension of university officials. Procurement Policy Board member Ed Bedore could not hold back his disgust with the callousness of university administrators to their ethical obligations to taxpayers. “I just hope the university does a better job with their law students than they do with their attorneys in their offices,” Bedore said. “I would hope that the U of I would take this back, or the board of trustees would open the windows and raise the blinds and shed some light on this.”

University Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy indicated that the board would be reconsidering the matter of the architecture contract during its retreat and monthly board meeting in Chicago this week. “The taxpayer should have confidence that their money is being spent without conflict. We don’t want any appearance of conflict when it comes to contracting,” Kennedy said. “We take a lot of public money, and people ought to trust the University of Illinois. The board will hold the university staff to the high standard of no perception of conflict of interest.”

Only the ultimate outcome of this disgusting incident will tell, however, whose “perception of conflict of interest” counts for anything in Illinois public contracting.

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