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Critics hope audit brings transparency to building projects

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Auditors will review how Sioux Falls picks construction firms and monitors building projects following complaints from residents and City Council members last year about a lack of transparency.

SIOUX FALLS (AP) - Auditors will review how Sioux Falls picks construction firms and monitors building projects following complaints from residents and City Council members last year about a lack of transparency.

Argus Leader Media is suing the city for access to documents related to a $1 million settlement with contractors over faulty siding at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. The city hasn't made the settlement details public, citing a confidentiality agreement and the arrangement under which the companies were hired known as "construction manager at-risk."

Sioux Falls' Internal Audit Division told the City Council in a report this week that its audits this year will include a review of the city's use of the construction manager at-risk method, which was first used by the city with the event center project. Under such arrangements, a company is hired to oversee a project from design to completion and is responsible for keeping costs within a budgeted amount.

Before, the city would typically hire an architect to design plans, and a low bidder would be hired to build it. If the design needed any changes along the way, alterations would be scrutinized publicly and vetted by the City Council.

City and industry officials say the construction manager at-risk method makes projects go more smoothly, and keeps taxpayers from paying more for projects that cost more than budgeted. But critics say it takes some oversight away from elected officials.

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"You can't have a new construction process like that go on without reviewing it and making sure the outcomes are going well," said council member Greg Jamison.

Jamison hopes the audit will include details on how the city's $117 million events center payment was spent. The number of subcontractors used in the project and how they were compensated also is expected in the report.

Jamison said "we'll figure out what can we know and what can't we know" through the audit.

"If the auditors can't look at details of public spending because they were deemed private because of the construction manager at-risk method, then we have a problem," Jamison said.

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