Detroit Public Library audit raises contracting questions

Detroit Public Library
The Detroit Public Library is one of the largest public libraries in the country.

DETROIT — An audit of Detroit Public Library’s finances by the city Auditor General has revealed that the institution issued contracts without bids, as well as other irregularities that are attracting the attention of federal and city officials.

The Auditor General reports that the library maintained 35 different bank accounts, used money for improper purposes such as a luxury car for the use of (now) former Library Director Maurice Wheeler, and repeatedly overpaid for services because there was limited oversight of the process of awarding contracts.

The findings are being reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the IRS, and the city council has asked for a review by the Ethics Commission and the Detroit Police Department’s Public Corruption Task Force.

“Procurements were made without following good procurement practices, such as competitive bidding,” the report stated. “In some cases, the DPL purchasing department was not included in the process to procure major goods and services.”

One questionable item was the approval of a no-bid contract for a planned renovation of the main branch library, a contract that showed up $1.1 million over budget — even before work on the project had begun.