TRENTON – If it was a mid-term exam, the grade might be a C.
The Comptroller’s office gave Rutgers University decidedly mixed grades Wednesday in a new report following up a 2011 audit of the university’s procurement and contract processes.
The report did give the state’s largest public higher-education institution credit for eliminating a policy that allowed non-competitive contract awards in which Rutgers justified its decision as being in the “best interest” of the school.
However, the state Comptroller slapped Rutgers for continuing to limit competition to certain bidders, and awarding capital project contracts without public advertisement.
“Rutgers’ contracting process is more competitive today than it was when we conducted our audit in 2011,” State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a release.
“But we continue to be surprised by the university’s opposition to the basic notion of broad-based advertising of contracts funded by taxpayer dollars.”
According to the Comptroller’s office, despite the fact that Rutgers receives more than $400 million in state funding, it does not have to adhere to public bidding rules that all other state higher-education institutions must follow.
For example, the Comptroller’s report found that Rutgers claimed in regards to seven procurements that there was only one vendor who could perform the service being sought, but the Comptroller also found that in two of them – food and hotel services – Rutgers did not provide sufficient justification for the waivers.
The Comptroller pointed out that legislation is pending that would require Rutgers to use the same bidding procedures its fellow public institutions use.
Although Rutgers has complied with some of the Comptroller’s 2011 recommendations, there are some the Comptroller said it still opposes:
*Require advertising on contracts that exceed $40,000 and not limiting it to preapproved vendors;
*Utilize the State Department of the Treasury’s Division of Property Management and Construction system for prequalification of contractors, architects, engineers and other construction professionals instead of using Rutgers’ own system, which just duplicates the work the state could be doing.
In its point by point response to each Comptroller’s office recommendation, Rutgers said, among other things, that it continues to disagree that following state public bidding practices would lead to lower prices.
“The OSC has failed to demonstrate that using State requirements would necessarily have resulted in better pricing,” the university stated in a response supplied to the Comptroller by Rutgers Associate General Counsel Robert Roesener.
Regarding the advertisement recommendation, “Rutgers points out that our approach to contracting for capital projects is informed by Rutgers’ successful completion of over two billion dollars worth of construction projects over approximately the last 10 years.
"This amount of construction came in on time and on budget for projects as diverse as residential buildings (dorms), teaching and research space (e.g., laboratories), infrastructure, administration space, athletics venues and deferred maintenance.”
Rutgers was at the center of a widespread higher-education reorganization that went into effect on July 1 involving Rowan University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
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