South Carolina State University should account for the millions of dollars that have flowed to the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center since it was launched more than a decade ago, a state representative says.
And a member of the university's Board of Trustees has called for audits on the state and federal funds that have passed through the center.
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, who graduated from S.C. State, said he would like to see a new transportation complex filled with thriving research programs that would benefit the school, the Orangeburg area and the state.
But he said questions raised by a Post and Courier report about the university's inability to explain how millions of dollars were spent should be answered before the project moves forward.
The newspaper reported Monday that more than $50 million has flowed to the center since 1998, about half for programs and half to build the first phase of an $80 million transportation complex. The complex would be named in honor of Jim Clyburn, the U.S. House Majority Whip, who brought in much of the center's money.
The university plans to move forward with the new building as soon as possible, even though no transportation research is currently under way, President George Cooper has said. On Tuesday, Cooper's contract was not renewed by the university's Board of Trustees.
"That amount of money, $50 million, draws attention," Govan said. The university "should be able to account for how that money was spent. That's only fair and that's only right."
While the university has most of the $26.3 million for the first phase of the new building on hand, officials can't account for millions of federal dollars for transportation-related programs.
Joseph Pearman, assistant vice president for business and finance, has said the school put in place a new financial recording system a few years ago. It's difficult to access records from the old system, he said, so he can't explain how much of the money that ran through the transportation center was spent.
S.C. State Trustee Maurice Washington said he agrees with Govan. He said the university should conduct audits on federal and state funds that have flowed to the center. "We should use every means available to us to account for public funds," he said.
On Wednesday, the university failed to get an additional $778,693 in state money it wanted for the new transportation building. Gov. Mark Sanford had vetoed the expenditure, stating that Clyburn could likely bring in federal money instead. The state Legislature sustained that veto in a vote Wednesday.
John Smalls, the university's senior vice president for finance and facilities, said the money would have been used toward the state match for the transportation complex.
The school has about $3 million in state matching money on hand, but needs about $4 million. The university will have to find another source for the rest of the matching money, he said.