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Audit: No merit to BYU allegations of bias toward University of Utah

Published: Tuesday, June 24 2014 4:50 p.m. MDT

An audit released Tuesday found no evidence of wrongdoing by an evaluation committee that selected a team from University of Utah over a team from BYU for a contract to produce math textbooks.

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SALT LAKE CITY — An audit released Tuesday finds no merit to allegations by BYU that education officials acted inappropriately in selecting the University of Utah for a state contract to create math textbooks.

The audit, released nearly two years after a formal complaint was submitted by a team of BYU professors, states there "is no credible evidence of wrongdoing" and upholds the reviews conducted by the Utah Attorney General's Office and the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services.

During the 2012 Legislature, lawmakers appropriated $600,000 for the creation of seventh- and eighth-grade math textbooks aligned with the newly adopted Utah Core Standards, according to the audit. A request for proposals was released in April of that year, resulting in bids from BYU and the University of Utah.

After reviewing the proposals from both schools, an evaluation committee awarded higher scores to the University of Utah team, according to the audit.

The BYU team subsequently filed a formal protest of the decision with 22 allegations, including claims of biased scoring of proposals and perceived conflicts of interest stemming from professional relationships between evaluators and the University of Utah team.

But auditors found that because the bid review relied on non-quantifiable considerations, members of the committee were expected to rely on their judgement in recommending a team for the contract.

"Because scoring and the evaluation of proposals is meant to be, at least in part, a subjective process, most of the total points possible during evaluation scoring are tied to non-cost-based criteria," the audit states. "It is not our role as auditors to question the decisions the experts have made during the proposal evaluation process."

The allegations by BYU also included a claim of a money offer between a University of Utah team member and a member of the evaluation committee, the audit states. An investigation by the Utah Attorney General's Office found insufficient evidence to file criminal charges, and auditors agreed with the office's determination that the money offer was never truly made, adding that "incomplete information and misunderstanding appear to have contributed to this accusation."

"Overall, our analysis of available evidence indicates these allegations did not have merit," the audit states. "Only the money offer allegation posed a potential case of serious wrongdoing. This issue was resolved by an investigation by the (attorney general's office), and we concur with (that) conclusion."

The audit also notes that BYU declined to appeal the conclusions reached by the attorney general's office and the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services.

Representatives from BYU and the University of Utah declined requests for comment Tuesday.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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