COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gov. Henry McMaster has ordered an investigation of the South Carolina Conservation Bank, questioning how it operates and spends money.

The State newspaper obtained a letter from McMaster to Inspector General Brian Lamkin, asking for a thorough inspection and review of the bank and its accounting practices.

The conservation bank has spent $150 million, protecting nearly 300,000 acres from development. Critics have questioned the need for the bank.

The Legislative Audit Council earlier this year issued a report questioning how the bank spent money. The audit said the bank sometimes paid wealthy landowners to avoid developing their property without guaranteeing public access to the land.

The audit also said some landowners were paid when property was not in danger of development.

Bank officials have disputed the criticism in the report.

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Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com