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Audit: State plane record-keeping lacking

State agencies that manage aircraft should post online how often those aircraft fly and who’s on board, concludes a state audit released Tuesday.

The Legislative Audit Council, an investigative arm of the S.C. General Assembly, also said state agencies managing aircraft needed to improve overall record keeping.

The audit of how state aircraft is managed was ordered by Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican, in wake of allegations Gov. Mark Sanford may have used state planes for personal use and purchased pricey airline tickets when state regulations mandate low-cost travel.

The audit supports what a probe by the S.C. Ethics Commission concluded: Sanford used the state plane at least twice to attend political functions, which it argued is not official state business. Sanford has maintained his attendance at those events, including a trip the Republican Governors Association, were within his duties as governor. Sanford has been charged with 37 ethics violations over his travel and campaign spending.

The audit singles out the state Department of Commerce as an agency that purchased business-class tickets when state regulations mandate low-cost travel. Those tickets were purchased for the governor, the head of the commerce department and at least one legislator. The audit concluded the purchases “violate the intent of state regulation which states that commercial airline travel must be in coach or tourist class.” But those regulations did not explicitly prohibit business-class flights. The audit recommends lawmakers make the restrictions clear.