Transparency Website Improvements
Our commitment to providing meaningful government transparency is always evolving and requiring constant effort to keep up with the latest developments. Indeed, today’s best practices in transparency are far more demanding than when S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom’s Office launched the state’s Fiscal Transparency Website in March 2008.
To meet new expectations and to continue leading in the transparency movement, our office continues to improve the site and look for ways to make government in South Carolina more transparent at all levels. You can help in this effort by providing suggestions and feedback via our agency’s Citizen Input page.
Some of the more recent improvements to the S.C. Fiscal Transparency Website are detailed below. Unlike transparency websites in many states, the S.C. Comptroller’s Office has not expended any additional taxpayer dollars to provide and maintain this site, relying instead on existing, in-house staff time and resources.
State spending: Two big upgrades to the central core of the site – the state spending database – are being implemented. One of the features allows users to search and view payments to any individual vendor by all state agencies in a given fiscal year. The other upgrade allows users to examine state spending by categories, such as supplies and materials or travel. Meanwhile, visitors now can download an entire year’s state spending data in Excel files on the Monthly State Spending Transparency Files page.
State contracts: A wealth of state contracting information is available through the website of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority’s Procurement Services Division, which oversees this vital state function. However, visitors need to know how to find what they’re looking for. The Transparency Website’s new State Contracts page provides a user-friendly guide to navigating this information.
Local governments: The Transparency Website features a central portal of links to the online check registers of many cities and counties and all school districts in South Carolina. The number of cities and counties has increased and the Comptroller General’s Office continues to help and encourage local governments across the state to join the transparency movement.
Economic development subsidies: This is one of the biggest new frontiers in transparency, but it’s an area where South Carolina is lacking because state law prohibits disclosing specific economic development tax benefits or subsidies that companies obtain, as well as the return on investment taxpayers receive for those subsidies as measured by job creation and capital investment. But using the most recent information publicly available, the Comptroller’s Office has compiled and added two searchable and downloadable reports to the Transparency Website. These two Excel reports provide details on state grants from the Governor’s Closing Fund and on projects approved for state job development tax credits.
Tax expenditure reports: In transparency, the ability for citizens, reporters and other interested parties to analyze data is crucial. With that in mind, the Comptroller’s Office has created and posted an Excel version of an annual report produced by the state Board of Economic Advisors showing the cumulative totals for a host of state tax expenditures – everything from the back-to-school sales tax holiday to tax credits for the use of state port facilities. The term “tax expenditures” refers to special tax breaks the government provides to certain taxpayers.
S.C. Insurance Reserve Fund payments: The Insurance Reserve Fund provides property and liability coverage to more than 1,000 state and local government entities in South Carolina. Working with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, which operates the IRF, the Comptroller’s Office has added reports to the Transparency Website providing details on payments made by the fund, including the amounts and reasons for the payments in claims and cases that have been concluded.