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UW System orders audit into bidding process of a UW-Madison project
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UW-MADISON | MOVING SERVICES TO THE CLOUD

UW System orders audit into bidding process of a UW-Madison project

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The University of Wisconsin System ordered an audit late last month into UW-Madison’s bidding process for a large project just days before one of the companies not selected for the contract raised concerns and requested an investigation.

UW-Madison sought a vendor last year to help phase in its Administrative Transformation Program, a massive, multiyear project that will move the university’s administrative services, such as payroll, human resources and finance, to a more secure cloud-based system.

On the recent episode of Rewind: Your Week in Review, WisPolitics.com editor JR Ross and Capital Times opinion editor Jessie Opoien discuss former governor Tommy Thompson being appointed as interim president for the UW System. This happened after University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen withdrew from being the one and only nomination. Under current university policy, interim appointments can't seek the permanent job unless they receive a waiver, and Thompson requested to receive the minimum salary of $489,334. UW regents Karen Walsh, an Evers appointee, and regent president Andrew Petersen, a Walker appointee, both back Thompson.

Watch the full program: https://wiseye.org/2020/06/19/rewind-your-week-in-review-for-june-13-19/

Check out more on Rewind: https://wiseye.org/category/rewind-your-week-in-review/

Subscribe to Morning Minute: https://wiseye.org/morning-minute/

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Interim System President Tommy Thompson called the project “absolutely critical” to modernize budget management on campuses.

“However, it’s essential that at every step we soundly manage the project with full transparency and accountability,” he said in a Thursday statement announcing the commissioning of an independent review.

The System’s review of UW-Madison’s bidding process began mid-February, a few days before one of the vendors, Deloitte Consulting, informed UW-Madison about its “grave concerns.”

Wisconsin’s procurement process requires all vendors be notified about who among them was selected for the job. Companies that lost out on the contract then have a certain window of time to appeal to the state Department of Administration.

Thompson said the review stems from this “potential missed step.”

Deloitte alleges UW-Madison allowed two competitors, Huron and Accenture, to participate in crafting part of the bid and then bidding on the project — a process the company decried as “marred by a lack of transparency, unequal treatment and conflicts of interest that cannot be tolerated in government procurement.”

UW-Madison assessed companies through what’s known as a request for proposals. The university evaluated vendors based on the quality of their proposal and past experience, not just the dollar figure they offered.

Huron and Accenture were respectively awarded $808,000 and $819,000 contracts to work on the first phase of the UW-Madison project, according to System.

In a letter to Deloitte on Monday, UW-Madison purchasing director Lori Voss said the request for proposals was canceled on Feb. 18 — five days before the company raised concerns in its Feb. 23 letter. She said the university won’t seek new bids until the review is complete.

“An audit will determine all the facts, but this process issue is not believed to have resulted in a material impact on the awards made to two of five vendors that submitted bids through this open, public process,” university spokesman John Lucas said.

The System’s Office of Internal Audit is conducting the review. The office reports to Thompson and the UW Board of Regents but has independent authority.

Fave 5: Higher education reporter Kelly Meyerhofer shares her top picks of 2019

We are sharing Wisconsin State Journal staffers' favorite work from 2019. From higher education reporter Kelly Meyerhofer: 

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank often says that the university, with more than 22,000 employees and about 44,000 students, is larger than the population of the city of Janesville. That means there's no shortage of stories for me to tell.

One day I interview the Wisconsin Union wedding planner about Spanx snafus and the next I find myself fact-checking how much money Foxconn has given to the university (so far, it's less than 1% of the company's $100 million promise). You might have seen me on campus wondering how often emergency blue lights are used in the age of cellphones, listening to Black Student Union members probe how much progress UW-Madison has made in campus diversity or asking people tough questions like what they really think of the Nails' Tales sculpture.

I found inspiration this year from people like Nicholas Jackson, who dropped out of high school and encountered a series of academic starts and stops before he participated in his first-ever graduation when he earned a UW-Madison degree last spring. I found complexity in some of the decisions the university faced in 2019, like whether to readmit Quintez Cephus. And I found tragedy in the story of an engineering lab with a "toxic" work environment that went undiscovered by university leadership until a graduate student's suicide. 

It was a busy year on this beat — 203 stories, by my count. I’m thankful to the State Journal's subscribers who support my work as one of the few full-time higher education reporters in Wisconsin. Here's five stories that I either enjoyed reporting on or challenged me the most. And if you want to read the 198 stories not included on this list, you can find them here

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