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3 golden objects Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Legislative Auditor - Financial Audit Division

Report Summary
Department of Transportation
Special Review: Airplane Purchase


Financial Audit Division Report 05-54 Released November 22, 2005


  • Controversy over the state’s purchase of an airplane in July 2005 was caused by a misunderstanding created largely by officials in MnDOT’s Office of Aeronautics. They initially left the impression that the state was seriously interested in purchasing a Cirrus airplane. When that plan changed, they did not clearly communicate their new intention to Cirrus representatives.
  • MnDOT used a competitive process to request bids for an airplane, but wrote product specifications so that only a Beechcraft Bonanza would qualify, causing Cirrus representatives to suspect that state officials acted improperly.
  • The way bid information was distributed to potential vendors gave Cirrus representatives further reason for suspicion that the procurement process was being manipulated.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor was asked to review the procurement process used by the Office of Aeronautics in the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to purchase an airplane in July 2005. The request followed allegations that Aeronautics officials "rigged" the bid specifications to exclude airplanes manufactured by Cirrus Design Corporation (Cirrus), an airplane manufacturing company headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota.

State procurement laws do not address the specific requirements for competitive bidding documents. However, the Department of Administration's purchasing procedures allow state agencies a certain level of flexibility when developing product specifications. When necessary to satisfy its needs, the procedures allow an agency to specify detailed product features and even a particular product brand, as long as the bid allows for an "approved equal."


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