Information on the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission's Master Plan Contracting Procedures

CED-81-106: Published: May 27, 1981. Publicly Released: May 27, 1981.

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GAO was requested to provide information concerning contracts awarded by the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission. The contracts involve preparing a comprehensive master plan for the management of the Upper Mississippi River System called for by Public Law 95-502. GAO agreed to provide information on whether: (1) any of the contracts were awarded to groups or individuals who have a conflict of interest; (2) the groups and individuals who were awarded contracts were qualified to perform the work; and (3) the funds have been expended in a manner consistent with the provisions of Public Law 95-502.

Several contracts offered an opportunity for conflict of interest, or more properly the potential for bias, which could have influenced the objectivity of the end products. However, in each instance, the opportunity has largely been removed through resignation of the researcher, termination of the contract by the Commission, or the Commission's restructuring of contract terms. The Commission's contract files and documents provided little or no evidence regarding known or potential conflicts of interest. GAO sought out critics of the Commission-awarded study contracts to better understand their concerns. The critics believed that four groups or individuals involved in the master plan activities had conflicts of interest. The groups or individuals who were awarded the contracts and agreements appeared to have the basic qualifications and experience to perform the assigned tasks. However, many had not previously managed or participated in studies containing the scope or complexity of the master plan studies. Based on a cursory review of financial documents, contracts, agreements, and task descriptions, it appears that funds have been expended in a manner generally consistent with the provisions of Public Law 95-502. According to Commission records, about $8.2 million of the $8.4 million appropriated for the master plan had been obligated as of March 1981. However, not all requirements of the legislation will be realized.

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