WHISTLEBLOWER: DISAPPEARING GRANT MONEY “RAMPANT”
Governor Nikki Haley and state lawmakers are facing a looming revolt from “hundreds of municipalities” within the Palmetto State over the agency’s alleged mismanagement of a controversial federal grant program. In fact several local leaders tell FITS they are prepared to call for a federal probe into the disappearance of millions of dollars sent to the agency – while one SCDOT whistleblower tells FITS she is ready to cooperate with such an investigation.
“The money they sent us – it’s gone,” she told us.
Wait … what?
Which money? And how much?
“Millions of dollars,” she said.
According to our source, SCDOT has been stiffing local governments for the last four years in the wake of its epidemic cash crunches. One of its favorite methods of administering the shaft? Collecting money from local governments under the auspices of TEA-21 grants – but then failing to do the work associated with the projects.
“TEA-21” grants refer to money administered by the federal government under the statutes of the “Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century” – which passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by president Bill Clinton back in 1998. The law expired in 2003, but its grants continue to be awarded.
In fact TEA-21 money has flowed to one of South Carolina’s most infamous boondoggles – the Jim Clyburn Transportation Center at S.C. State University (which has yet to be built).
Of course it’s where this money “isn’t” going that’s starting to raise red flags …
According to one local government official, SCDOT recently informed his municipality that it didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars collected over the past four years for a specific transportation project.
Eighty percent of the funding for the project was supposed to come from grant money – with the local government picking up 20 percent of the tab.
“We gave money to the DOT over a period of time as our share of the cost,” the leader told FITS.
The only problem? The local government’s share of the costs quickly bypassed the 20 percent threshold – and then the fifty percent threshold – without the project even being undertaken, let alone completed.
“They finally came back with a request for an amount exceeding the initial cost of the project – so we said ‘no, give us our money back’ and that’s when they said they didn’t have it,” the official said.
Our SCDOT whistleblower then referred us to several other municipalities dealing with similar situations.
“It’s rampant,” she said. “It’s bordering on standard operating procedure.”
FITS has been provided with specific dollar amounts related to at least four municipal projects that were never completed – in which SCDOT has been asked to reimburse the local government in question for previously expended funds (and been unable to do so). We’re told this is just a “sampling” of a much bigger problem.
“It’s statewide,” our source says.
We’ve weighed in on several previous occasions regarding the state’s current infrastructure situation (and various ill-conceived efforts to resolve it via tax hikes) – but it’s safe to say this development could throw a sizable wrench into everyone’s calculations.
Stay tuned … we look forward to providing additional information on this story very soon.