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SD Dem Wants Forensic Audit Of EB-5

December 2, 2013, 5:56 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Dem Wants Forensic Audit Of EB-5

A South Dakota Democrat is calling for a special legislative session at the end of the month.

Representative Kathy Tyler of Big Stone City is calling for an independent forensic audit of the organization that oversees South Dakota's federal EB-5 investment for visa program.

The EB-5 program is under scrutiny after it was revealed more than half of a state grant for the Aberdeen beef plant was redirected to the South Dakota Regional Center Incorporated, which was formed to administer the federal investment for visa program for the state.

Former Secretary of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda worked for SDRC Inc. after leaving state government. He committed suicide in October. Governor Dennis Daugaard has ordered an independent audit of the economic development office and a review of the state's grant programs, but Tyler says it doesn't go far enough.

"Legislators received a letter from the Governor's office indicating contracts have been signed for three individual audits; they are not adequate," Tyler said Monday at a news conference.

She's asking for a special legislative session. The FBI is already investigating the program, but Tyler wants legislative action.

"We do not know what the FBI investigations are covering. It is our responsibility as legislators, as representatives of the people, to get these questions answered," Tyler said.

More than a week ago, Daugaard revealed that a state investigation found that $550,000 of a $1 million grant to the Aberdeen beef plant was redirected for loan monitoring fees to SDRC Inc. when Benda was working for that office.

Daugaard has since ordered external reviews of the grant programs, an audit of the Governor's Office of Economic Development and an independent internal control examination in the office.

The governor, however, can't order an audit of SDRC Inc. because it is a private contractor and EB-5 is a federal program.

Still, Tyler believes South Dakota does have the authority to oversee these programs.

"This is the perfect opportunity for every legislator to step to the plate and say, 'Hey, look we need to get this fixed.' Taxpayers' money has gone down the drain and we need to get this fixed," Tyler said.

Tyler needs two-thirds of the state's legislators to sign a petition for a special legislative session before the end of the month.

She'll be looking for signatures Tuesday in the Capitol before Daugaard gives his annual budget address.

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