University of Wisconsin System auditors identified a range of missteps in the bidding process for an information technology project at UW-Madison, including two perceived conflicts of interest and several violations of state procurement policy.
UW-Madison last year was looking for a vendor to start its Administrative Transformation Program, a massive effort to move the school’s administrative services, such as payroll, to a cloud-based system.
The multiyear project, jointly sponsored by the university and the System, will eventually benefit all UW campuses but the work in getting it up and running has been primarily staffed by UW-Madison employees up to this point, university spokesperson John Lucas said.
UW-Madison in late February canceled requests for all future bids just a few days before one of the losing vendors, Deloitte Consulting, alleged that two of its competitors, Huron and Accenture, helped craft part of the bid and were then selected for roughly $800,000 contracts despite Deloitte initially earning the highest score.
The System’s Office of Internal Audit completed its review earlier this month. The office reports to the System president and UW Board of Regents but has independent authority. The report, provided at the Wisconsin State Journal’s request, found no “direct evidence” of a conflict of interest but observed instances of what officials described as potential conflicts of interest. These include a vendor that conducted some “pre-planning work” before being selected for the bid and a UW-Madison employee who had a previous relationship with one of the vendors.
UW-Madison officials told System officials they didn’t believe these actions amounted to conflicts of interest and that any perceptions “did not have a material impact on the procurement.”
Among the audit’s other findings:
- The pandemic delayed the project, incentivizing managers and employees to take risks or override internal controls to prevent the project from being pushed even further behind.
- Key UW-Madison project staff lacked a working knowledge of procurement rules.
- State procurement policy bans vice chancellors from serving on the committee evaluating the bids, yet UW-Madison allowed another school’s vice chancellor for finance and administration to join the committee.
- Procurement staff on multiple occasions did not answer vendors’ questions with “expected clarity and transparency.”
- After UW-Madison altered the scope of its bid in what’s called a clarification, staff failed to notify vendors about who among them was selected for the job. Companies that lose out on the contract are supposed to have a window of time to appeal to the state Department of Administration.
- UW-Madison’s purchasing department isn’t completing management reviews as required under state policy — a concern System auditors flagged two years ago. The university drafted protocols in response but has yet to finalize and implement them.
Auditors recommended the System or a third-party agency or campus manage the process seeking new bids to ensure a competitive playing field and restore confidence in the vendor community. They also suggested the committee that evaluated the bids be replaced with new members.
UW-Madison chief financial officer Laurent Heller, in a written response to System chief auditor Lori Stortz, cited the pandemic and its strain on staff resources as a contributing factor to the problems that arose. He said the university proactively brought the matter to the System’s attention after realizing errors occurred.
Heller pledged to implement the report’s recommendations and restart the bidding process as soon as possible.
Deloitte, the vendor that raised concerns earlier this year, said in a statement that it was pleased an independent investigation confirmed the company received the highest score among vendors and that there should have been more transparency and clarity throughout the bidding process. The company also said it looks forward to future opportunities to work with the System.
Weekend re-reads: Check out these Wisconsin State Journal stories honored in state newspaper contest
The Wisconsin State Journal collected 10 first-place awards in an annual contest put on by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, including recognitions for general excellence, all-around photography and the opinion pages.
State Journal staff also won eight second-place finishes and 12 third-place honors in the association's Better Newspaper Contest, which evaluated content published between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020.
Photographer John Hart took home three individual first-place wins for the feature photo, artistic photo and photo essay categories, while photographer Amber Arnold earned first for a general news photo.
Emily Hamer was awarded the Rookie Reporter of the Year distinction and also won first place for extended coverage on the return of state pardons. Higher education reporter Kelly Meyerhofer earned first place in local education coverage.
Re-read the State Journal stories that won first, second and third place in this year's Better Newspaper Contest.
A fire last month destroyed Gooch's A-One Bar & Grill and its massive collection of wildlife mounts in Boulder Junction. But the owner is vowing to rebuild the business that is popular with visiting anglers, snowmobilers and locals.
Urban League's training program is designed specifically to prepare trainees for entry-level jobs at Exact Sciences, the biomedical powerhouse behind the at-home colon cancer screening test Cologuard.
The two churches — one predominantly black, the other mostly white — will have services under the same roof on the East Side starting Sunday.
Five years ago, dozens wrote letters to former Gov. Scott Walker to issue decorated Iraq War veteran Eric Pizer a pardon. On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers will give Pizer that "second chance."
It’s been 40 years since the last zinc mine closed and nearly two centuries since Southwest Wisconsin was the nation’s primary source of lead. The last vestiges of the industry have all but disappeared, but the toxic legacy remains.
“If we want to create the kinds of high-growth companies with high-paying employment, we need to have venture capital,” the head of one venture capital firm said.
John Brady faced a stressful work environment under an engineering professor before taking his own life.
National Science Foundation fired engineering professor Akbar Sayeed after receiving a detailed report on the toxic lab environment he oversaw.
The change will ensure reports of hostile and intimidating behavior "do not simply remain hidden inside a department or unit," Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.
College of Engineering Dean Ian Robertson reassigned professor Akbar Sayeed to administrative duties in the Dean's Office.
William Hamilton came to Lafayette County in 1828 to mine lead and founded what is now Wiota.
Firing of faculty members is rare. The UW Board of Regents dismissed six professors in the past decade.
An expected doubling of residents with dementia, coupled with a caregiver shortage hitting rural areas especially hard, presents a growing cha…
Taryn Seymour, an interior designer with two young children who lives near Spring Green, donated a kidney to a stranger this year. “I think th…
Students said the policy doesn't go far enough to protect them from potential exploitation.
UW-Platteville Richland had nearly 250 students in 1980 when the campus was considered for closure. Today, it has 155.
The most recent investigation of tenured professor Akbar Sayeed is "currently underway regarding additional information that surfaced in fall 2019."
Widespread cancellation of events, travel restrictions, school closures, quarantines: Americans haven’t seen this kind of response to a public health threat since the 1918 flu pandemic.
Sonny Tiedemann's car is now part of the collection of the Grant County Historical Society Museum in Lancaster.
In a mobilization reminiscent of World War II, when factories worked around the clock to address military needs, Wisconsin businesses are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk isn’t theoretical. Despite wearing protective gear, and taking other precautions, they’re inches away from patients emitting a new virus that has killed more than 55,000 people.
Middleton girls coach Jeff Kind now says he has reconsidered retiring from coaching and hopes to return next season after the Cardinals didn't get to play at the state tournament. The WIAA canceled the winter sports season due to the COVID-19 coronavirus situation.
Even if rules are tightened once the outbreak dies down, some expansion of telehealth appears here to stay, medical experts say.
The director of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has been a part of the museum's evolution, helped guide it out of financial distress in the early 1990s and readied it for its move to a new space at Overture Center.
FluGen's coronavirus immunization candidate, CoroFlu, is one of roughly 100 or more competitors in a global race to produce a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19.
With Wisconsin's "Safer at Home" order struck down and Dane County's COVID-19 restrictions set to expire May 26, people will be able to resume more normal activities. But are they safe? Here are doctors' answers to frequently asked questions.
Thousands of UW-Madison students move in and out of apartments and houses this weekend. Will they follow the rules off campus?
An already existing child care crisis compounded by online schooling in many school districts could harm women’s careers, widen the gender pay…
"The video that came out of Kenosha is absolutely horrific. I don’t understand how people can watch it and not be here," one Madison protester said.