PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some Rhode Island lawmakers are questioning the state’s decision to hire a $76,000-per-week consulting firm to examine the financial challenges of Rhode Island College.
As first reported by The Boston Globe, the contract was awarded to the New York-based firm Alvarez & Marsal in mid-December by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education. The firm is set to earn at least $760,000 for its work through the end of February.
Alvarez & Marsal is tasked with examining things like the school’s operations, enrollment and COVID-19 response in an effort to come up with recommendations to improve the college’s finances. This comes after RIC announced in August it was facing its worst fiscal crisis in its 166-year history.
Tim DelGiudice, the chair of the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education, told 12 News in an emailed statement that the firm has extensive experience in this area.
“In order to make recommendations for the FY2022 budget cycle, a plan needs to be created that generates efficiencies and prioritizes programs while maintaining educational outcomes,” he said. “Because of the need for a quick turnaround together with subject matter expertise, A&M is the vendor best prepared of providing the analysis and recommendations in the time allotted.”
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman and West Warwick Democrat, Rep. Patricia Serpa questioned why the contract didn’t go out to bid.
“It’s my understanding that no-bid contracts are only permissible when they are necessitated by emergency situations,” Serpa said in a statement. “I’m not convinced that this qualifies as an emergency.”
She added, “This is a blatant cavalier attitude of disrespect for taxpayer dollars.”
North Providence State Rep. William O’Brien, also a Democrat, agrees.
“You’re begging us for millions of dollars to make you whole and you just basically blew $1 million,” he said of the school, calling the decision “disrespectful and outrageous.”
A spokesperson for Rhode Island College declined to comment.
Both O’Brien and Serpa are now calling for a House Oversight Committee hearing on the matter.
“I want to know who approved this because I can’t get a straight answer,” O’Brien said. “I want to know the person or persons who approved this.”
This story has been updated. A previous version of this post misspelled the name of the New York-based consulting firm.