The Legislative Audit Council has released its audit of South Carolina State University’s expenditures for the construction of the Clyburn Transportation Center. The LAC reports that it found no evidence of missing funds.
However, LAC Director Thomas Bardin says some questionable expenditure of funds were found and mistakes made on compliance issues in the use of grant funds. The agency agreed to conduct the audit at the request of 10 state lawmakers following 12 years of delays in the construction of the center and allegations of millions in missing funds. South Carolina State officials have long contended that there were no missing funds. Bardin did point out that while the audit did turn up a pattern of widespread abuse, a few questionable travel voucher records were uncovered and discussed with law enforcement.
The LAC further reports that the school does not have a viable plan to raise the $80-plus million needed to complete the center. $24 million has been designated for programs and approximately $8 million has been spent on academic research, faculty scholarships, grants, and faculty salaries. Bardin points out that the school has lost its Tier I designation. Losing that status cost SC State approximately $3 million in federal funds that resulted in cutbacks in academic programs and services as the school attempted to meet financial obligations associated with the project.
Bardin provided some recommendations for the school including getting the university’s board of trustees more involved in order to provide a more effective system of oversight and accountability. Bardin added that the school needs to be more proactive and aggressive in the public relations area. He says responding early on to allegations and rumors of millions in missing funds likely would have saved the university from a lot of negative publicity and perceptions.
LAC Governing Board member Mallory Factor of Charleston says the waste uncovered in the audit is inexcusable.
The report states that construction delays have been caused by a lack of proper oversight and inexperience, and insufficient staff. Agency documents indicate that even with full funding, the center would not be completed until 2020. The results of a federal audit and an audit for the S.C. Department of Transportation are pending.
Sixth District Congressman and House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn issued a statement on the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council’s report regarding alleged “missing funds” at the South Carolina State University’s Transportation Center.
This report vindicates what I have been saying all along about the Transportation Center funding. No federal funds are missing. They are sitting safely at the National Highway Trust Fund waiting to be drawn down after approved expenditures are made by the university as mandated by this cost-reimbursement contract award.
While this project may have challenges, the biggest obstacle comes from those who sought to manufacture this controversy and delay the university’s efforts for their own agenda. I continue to support this project and will do everything I can to see that it is completed. This project began as an opportunity for South Carolina State to have a unique mission to help train a diverse workforce for our state and nation’s transportation needs well into the future. That is still an important goal, and one I am pleased to support.