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Audits focus on college construction projects in Mo.

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Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
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Mo. Auditor Susan Montee, at a press conference today at the State Capitol.

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Two audits released today find that the Missouri Department of Higher Education has little say into how money is spent on building projects.

The audits examined both the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative. The latter was a project backed by former Republican Governor Matt Blunt to use profits from student loans to fund construction projects on college campuses.

Democratic State Auditor Susan Montee says the Department of Higher Education had little to no input into those projects.

"The most outrageous thing here is that there were 16 projects, one-third of the money, were projects that weren't on anyone's priority list, including the institutions themselves," Montee said.

Montee lays the blame squarely on lawmakers.

"The legislature is free to do whatever they want to without the benefit of all of the input and all of the coordination that is being done," Montee said. "We have allowed political influence to come in and play way too high a figure in this."

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA) has fallen behind on payments, and Governor Jay Nixon, who opposed the plan when he was Attorney General, has frozen some of the building projects.

Montee is seeking re-election as State Auditor.

St. Louis Public Radio also contacted Republican lawmakers for this story, but so far none have responded.

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