Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eckstrom urges more openness on spending

(From Greenville News. Photo: Ron Dekett)

Greenville city and county so far have not heeded state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom's call for local governments to post their spending details online.

Mayor Knox White said the city of Greenville isn't sure if its computer system can put check registers online, as Eckstrom advocates, in addition to annual budgets and financial audits.

County Council Chairman Butch Kirven questioned whether posting check registers would boost efficiency or responsiveness.

“What they're talking about is anybody sitting in the comfort of their home at 10 o'clock at night cruising through the county's check register,” Kirven said. “Is that the way you run a business? Is that level of detail going to make us more efficient and responsive to people?”

Eckstrom, however, says putting spending details online is easy and inexpensive and that his office stands ready to help local governments with the task. He's conducting a statewide campaign for increased government transparency and brought it to Greenville this week during a news conference at County Square.

Joining him were state Reps. Garry Smith and Billy Wylie of Simpsonville and Dan Hamilton of Taylors and members of Greenville County Council and Simpsonville City Council.

Eckstrom said he lived in Greenville for years and would like to see “my own community become a leader in this and not have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this.”

Eckstrom, the state's paymaster, last year used the state computer system to put state agencies' spending details online, backed by an executive order from Gov. Mark Sanford. Eckstrom said he also included spending by the House and Senate in a move that drew objections from legislative staff members.

Spending details from every school district in South Carolina should be online in a few months, he said.

While Eckstrom is encouraging local governments to put spending details online, Smith and other lawmakers have introduced legislation to require it. The bill has not gotten out of committee for the past two years, however.

So far, Columbia, Aiken and Irmo and Charleston and Anderson counties have put their check registers online, Smith said. In Greenville County, he said Mauldin has put some spending details online.

Also appearing with Eckstrom was Ashley Landess of the South Carolina Policy Council, a conservative think tank in Columbia. Asked if the Policy Council puts its spending details online, Landess said her organization is private.

“We don't get any public money, and our supporters have a right to get their identity protected,” she said.

Spending records in paper form are already available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act, though getting them is more time-consuming and cumbersome than it would be if they were online.

1 comment:

PO'ed said...