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State withholding $17 million from Orangeburg County over audit

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The South Carolina Treasurer's Office is withholding about $17 million from Orangeburg County due to the county's not meeting the state's Jan. 1 legal deadline to report financial statements.

The Comptroller's General Office said $17,023,717.71 is being withheld from the county and will not be released until the office receives the county's 2021 fiscal year audited financial statements.

"The (county) treasurer's office had a rash of COVID and so did I when it was time to prepare the audit," Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said, confirming money is being withheld that is due the county on the state level. "It was during the critical time when all had COVID."

"That gave us a setback," Young said. "We also changed software too. That was the worst time to have staff out with COVID and the change of software."

Young said the county is in the process of wrapping up its financial report, which it will submit to auditors and then have the needed materials to the state by July.

He said the county has had its current year's audit ahead of schedule and does not anticipate the same issue happening in the future.

Young said while having the money withheld "doesn't help" the county, "everything is moving as normal."

"We are running a lean operation," Young said when asked the financial impact. "We have reserves."

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The state's Treasurer's Office can withhold funding set for distribution to a county until the county turns in its financial audits.

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Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom reports his office has more than $36 million on hold until counties provide the required audits. Allendale and Williamsburg are the two other counties that have yet to turn in their financial statements.

State officials say reporting on time helps county councils set their budgets and keeps government operations transparent to the public. Without the state’s deadline, there might be no accountability.

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