Published Feb. 29, 2016
Richland County officials said they are willing to re-examine the Transportation Penny Program and make changes to comply with demands of the S.C. Department of Revenue.
The county is “committed to ensuring the Transportation Penny Program is well managed by qualified staff, an engaged citizen-advisory panel and responsible contractors,” county officials said in a statement. “The public trust is tantamount, and every effort must be taken to safeguard that trust.”
On Wednesday, the county received a letter from Revenue Department director Rick Reames as part of his agency’s ongoing probe into the $1.2 billion program. Reames demanded that county officials:
· Refund to the Penny Program money that has been spent operating the Small Local Business Enterprise program.
· Repay any money that has not been spent specifically on transportation projects such has hiring outside public relations firms to publicize the program.
· Hire an independent auditor to examine the program and also require that companies that have received funds from the Penny Program submit audits of expenditures related to transportation projects.
· Take action to fix problems and let the public know about them.
The county’s statement said that officials have fully cooperated with the Department of Revenue and its audit, meeting with the agency’s staffers in January and February.
“While we respect the points of inquiry made by DOR, we also recognize that any program – especially one of this scope – should undergo regular assessments to make changes as necessary. And we are taking steps to do just that,” county officials said. “As we do so, we continue to work with DOR to help bring this matter to resolution. We will continue our efforts to improve the program and we welcome insight from the public we serve.”
To date more than 70 roads covering 20 miles have been resurfaced or paved since the inception of the Transportation Penny Program. Projects in progress to be completed in 2016, among others, include Greene Street Phase I, totaling $12.8 million and six intersection improvements, totaling $9 million.