The city of Austin has not properly overseen its agreements with Mexic-Arte Museum, a report from the city’s Office of the City Auditor has revealed.
Auditors presented their report to the city council’s Audit and Finance Committee at their Sept. 23 meeting.
Auditors said that over the years the city has contributed significant funding to the purchase and rehabilitation of the Mexic-Arte building, allocating a total of $20.7 million to the museum.
In 2001, the city provided $740,000 from the general fund to buy the Mexic-Arte building at 419 Congress Avenue on the museum’s behalf.
Additionally, Mexic-Arte has $20 million in voter-approved bond money for the rehabilitation of its building at 419 Congress Avenue: $5 million from a 2006 bond campaign, and $15 million from 2018 voter-approved bonds.
However, the audit found a number of contract monitoring weaknesses. In fact auditors revealed that Mexic-Arte has a total of five different agreements with two different city departments: Parks and Recreation (PARD) and Economic Development Department (EDD).
The audit pointed out that PARD did not ensure Mexic-Arte’s performance information was accurate or complete, making it difficult to ensure that the museum has been meeting its contractual obligations with the city.
For example, one of the museum’s agreements with the city requires Mexic-Arte to present an annul exhibition featuring participants in “Totally Cool Totally Art,” the city’s free after school art program for teens. Auditor found that in one instance the museum used a single exhibition that combined program participants from two years: 2017 and 2018.
Also, Mexic-Arte is required to raise $3.5 million in addition to the bond funding, yet hasnot yet done so. The city and Mexic-Arte management are now currently negotiating the agreement that will guide how to apply the approved rehabilitation funds, the audit said.
Auditors called for all of Mexic-Arte’s agreements to be streamlined and that new accountability measures be more clearly established.
“I think our oversight and relationship with Mexic-Arte has been a little bumpy over the years,” said council member Leslie Pool, adding that “we do need to the work. Mexic-Arte is really important piece of our cultural asset inventory.”
Council member Allison Alter noted that an audit is about “looking at things from a contract compliance standpoint” and not “a reflection of what (Mexic-Arte) is doing to contribute to the cultural enrichment in our city.”
Mayor Steve Adler said he is willing to “help elevate” Mexic-Arte’s effort to raise the $3.5 million they need to in order access the bond money.
“I’d be willing to help,” the mayor said.