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he 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.

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.

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.

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