updated 4/5/2004 10:51:04 AM ET 2004-04-05T14:51:04

A federal investigation is under way to determine how a nonprofit organization spent private donations to reopen the Statue of Liberty and whether bids for work on the renovation adhered to federal guidelines, The New York Times reported Monday.

The inspector general of the U.S. Interior Department also plans to probe why the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation launched a $7 million fund-raising campaign for the reopening when it already had a $30 million endowment, The Times reported, citing an unnamed government official.

The National Park Service, which is responsible for the statue, did not return the paper’s calls for comment Sunday.

Foundation President Stephen A. Briganti said the foundation’s policy is not to use its endowment to pay for major projects.

Officials announced last week that access to the statue, which has been closed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, would be relaxed in late July after security improvements were made using the $7 million in donations. Work on the improvements had not begun as of late last week.

The Times reported Sunday that the statue could have reopened sooner if the foundation’s assets had been used to pay for the upgrades. But the Parks Service was slow in pursuing the project and did not ask Congress for the money because the agency was not sure it wanted to reopen the statue, the Times said.

The Parks Service countered that slow research into the improvements and a lengthy approval process had stalled the plans.

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