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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Procurement controversies -- South Carolina, USA

Should she who pays the procured piper be allowed to call the procurement tune? That's the question being asked in this bid controversy.

USC nixes bids; donor chooses architect
USC canceled all bids to hire an architect for its new $90 million Moore School of Business so a donor could pick a design firm of her own choosing.

While no state spending rules were broken, four Columbia firms and their national partners spent months of labor and an estimated $100,000 each hoping to win the project before the school abruptly canceled the bids in a two-sentence memo sent April 2.

Instead, the business school's private foundation will pay an estimated $4 million or more to a New York firm chosen by the school's benefactor, Darla Moore.

Moore, a Lake City financier for whom the school is named, sits on the foundation board. The firm chosen, Raphael Vinoly Architects, was a finalist for the contract but was not going to win it, a source close to the bidding told The State newspaper.

The architect's fee will be a gift from the foundation, which is allowed under state procurement rules, according to the S.C. Budget & Control Board.

But the head of the S.C. chapter of the American Institute of Architects called the last-minute canceling of the bids "unprecedented."

And one frequent critic of the university called it "an end run around the procurement process."

"People shouldn't deal with the university if they don't play by the rules," said Ashley Landess, president of the S.C. Policy Council.

If private money is mingled with public money, the project should have to follow public rules, Landess said.

"There will be public money involved in this project," she said. "And a lot comes from other government sources. It's a symptom of a bigger problem: the university blurring the line between private and public money."
Read more here.

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