HARTFORD, CT  —  The University of Connecticut’s downtown Hartford campus, in the former Hartford Times building, ran nearly $30 million over budget according to the Auditors of Public Accounts. 

The audit released Tuesday says the “guaranteed maximum price for the construction budget” was set at $98 million and the original budget was $70 million. 

“Subsequently, the university adjusted the contract 24 times, with more than 283 changes, increasing the HTB construction to $102,896,043, and total campus renovation costs to $116,701,564,” auditors wrote in their report. 

They said the reason was that, “The university did not follow the standard procurement process for construction projects, and as such, failed to establish a proper scope and compensation for the services.”

However, the university disputes the finding in the audit. 

“Management disagrees with the finding. At the outset of a large multifaceted project, it is customary and reasonable to rely on preliminary benchmark estimates. The University established the scope and costs appropriately, timely, and consistent with the Board of Trustee approvals and expectations for the project as a whole. In fact, overall the $140 Million Hartford campus relocation project was completed 6% under the approved budget,” university officials said. 

The auditors countered that: “The initial contracts signed by the developer and the university established an estimated construction budget of $70,000,000, and a not to exceed total campus project budget for the renovation of the Hartford Times Building of $87,000,000. The final construction and total campus renovation costs were $102,896,043 and $116,701,564, respectively, each of which are far in excess of the “3% to 5% range” cited by the university.”

The audit also found the university did not competitively bid at least two other projects, totaling $26.6 million and $16.5 million. 

“The lack of solicitation for services could result in higher costs,” the auditors said. 

The university responded that it felt it did not have to publicly solicit for construction management services under the circumstances because it felt the projects were related. The auditors disagreed. 

The auditors also found that during a review of construction change orders, “UConn did not competitively solicit two professional design projects with costs exceeding $500,000. Instead, the university awarded the projects to firms previously selected for design services on other projects.”

“While Management agrees with this recommendation, the University believes that it has adhered to the requirements to publicly solicit design projects with costs greater than $500,000 both generally and in the two instances cited in this finding. The University believes no further action is warranted,” university officials said in the audit. 

It is not unusual for state agencies to comment on, or even dispute findings in reports generated by state auditors. However, lawmakers often make note of auditors’ recommendations for corrective action.