By Scott Harper
How much did the City of Georgetown spend at Wal Mart last month?
How about at Food Lion or on postage stamps?
Those are questions anyone with access to a computer will be able to find out if City Councilman Paige Sawyer has his way.
Sawyer is asking the city to consider a program already in place in Charleston and soon to be up and running in Surfside Beach.
The idea is to place a register of every check written by the city online so they can be reviewed by the public.
So far, Charleston is the largest city in the state to place its checkbook register online.
Locally, Sawyer has asked the matter to be placed on the City Council agenda for Thursday's meeting. It will be discussed then.
State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom has been urging local governments to post such information online, to increase government transparency.
"By voluntarily posting their individual expenditures on their Web site for all to see, they are sending the message that people deserve easy, no-cost access to how their tax dollars are spent," Eckstrom said.
Sawyer said the city placing the information online would be the appropriate thing to do.
"The citizens ought to be able to see where the money is spent," he said.
City Administrator Chris Eldridge said the endeavor could lead to confusion and misinformation since receipts will not be included in the information posted.
All people will see, he said, is the amount spent. They will not see an item-by-item listing of what was bought with the money.
"I really don't know how much it will tell the public," he said.
Sawyer said the remedy to that is if anyone sees a check and they would like more information about the purchase, they can issue a Freedom of Information request for the receipts.
Eldridge also said the city writes up to 200 checks each week.
An employee would have to spend valuable time scanning each one of the registers into the computer so it can be posted.
Sawyer said that may be a problem at first but "once it's up and running it should get easier."
To see how the program works, visit the Comptroller's Website -- www.cg.sc.gov -- and click on Local Government Spending Transparency.
That will take you to the Web sites of the places already placing the information online.