Department of Labor officials awarded a $200,000 contract to promote a book club without engaging in competitive bidding, paying double what was budgeted for the project and neglecting to keep tabs on the winning contractor's performance or hours worked.

Potential bidders had only 29 hours to prepare and submit bids, though "the department did not provide any evidence for why it could not have waited longer," according to a new investigation by the department's inspector general. The investigation was requested last year by then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Labor officials limited bidding to advertising firms it already had on retainer, and which had experience with multiple languages and other criterion that had nothing to do with the book club assignment. That left a pool of two.

The contract was awarded to Concepts Inc., a Maryland public relations firm, after the other potential bidder was unable to provide a complete response in 29 hours.

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