Procurement audit shuts down US tourism body

6 June 2017

A non-profit organisation set up to promote the Mississippi River in Tennessee as a tourist destination had to shut down after an audit into alleged contracting irregularities caused it to run out of funds.

The Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee (MRCT) said it was in the process of dissolving due to an audit launched by the Tennessee Department of Transport (TDOT) into the construction of a visitors centre.

Funding from the Tennessee State Government has been withheld due to the audit and the MRCT said it had run out of operational funds after being in audit status for almost a year.

The audit was launched because of allegations of improper bidding procedures in the design and construction of the $2m visitors centre, which was to be largely funded by a state grant, according to the USA Today Network.

The TDOT audit has been taken over by the Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office and is ongoing. It was prompted by complaints that the MRCT failed to obtain competitive bids when seeking a project designer, it was reported.

The state comptroller is also reported to be investigating complaints that the $148,000-plus contract to an architecture firm involved a conflict of interest because one of its partners served as a member of MRCT's advisory council.

The MRCT also allegedly failed to publicly advertise the request for bids for the construction contract.

Instead the organisation had contacted three potential contractors and requested they submit bids, it was reported. 

MRCT president Diana Threadgill said the problems came about because of a misunderstanding of detailed contracting requirements associated with the grant, said USA Today Network.

Threadgill said the MRCT had cooperated fully with auditors and there had been no fraud.

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