Online check registers are an essential tool to make government spending decisions transparent and allow the public to see how their tax dollars are spent by government officials. In February, the Policy Council released a comprehensive transparency reportidentifying needed reforms in South Carolina government. The report found the current practice of forcing citizens to file burdensome Freedom of Information Act requests as well as pay fees places a needless roadblock in the path of citizens seeking public records.
14 states and five of the nation’s 40 largest public school districts currently have working online check registers in place today. Legislation has been introduced to mandate spending disclosure in South Carolina, but many officials have thus far argued it would be too expensive and burdensome to implement.
However, a growing number of municipalities across the state have voluntarily posted spending online and have demonstrated transparency can be done easily and at little cost.
The town of Irmo became South Carolina’s first local government to put spending online in January. Irmo Mayor Pro Tem Harvey Hoots said the process cost the town virtually nothing and was easy to implement.
“I can’t understand why any government would want to do anything different. If you want to be open and above board with your citizenry this is the easy way to do it,” said Hoots.
Anderson County became the state’s first county to place its financial records online in March. According to County Council Chairman Eddie Moore, Anderson County put the records online less than three weeks after announcing its effort and accomplished spending transparency at no cost to the taxpayer.
“We just exported the reports we are already keeping and posted it to the county website. Putting it online didn’t cost a dime,” said Moore.
Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom created a transparency website for 85 state agencies in 2007 and has repeatedly offered to help local governments implement spending transparency. Thus far, out of 270 towns and cities in the state only a small number have posted spending online since the Policy Council first drew attention to the issue last year.
However, as more local governments place spending online the arguments against doing so are proving to be without merit. Transparency is virtually cost free and is easily implemented. Governments that have yet to place records online have multiple examples to follow. There is no longer any excuse not to place records online.
South Carolina Local Government Transparency Websites
Nothing in the foregoing should be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder passage of any legislation. Copyright 2009. South Carolina Policy Council Education Foundation, 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina 29201. Visit the Policy Council Facebook page at www.facebook.com/scpolicycouncil or Twitter at www.twitter.com/scpolicycouncil.