The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Is County Transparency Really Transparent?

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A recent report by The Nerve revealed that 70 percent of South Carolina school districts—61 out of 85—have posted their check registers online as required by state law. Ignoring the fact that, well … it’s the law … and the deadline was extended to June 30 … it’s a good thing districts are making their spending more transparent.

A new fact sheet by the Policy Council, however, verifies that overall progress in posting spending data is still poor. Only 29 counties (out of 46) can say that all of their school districts have posted the required spending data. And many counties are still not making basic financial statements available online. Currently, only 25 out of 46 of South Carolina’s counties have posted their most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report online. Moreover, only 7 counties have created online check registers.

Moreover, the quality and consistency of the information counties are posting is very uneven.

Here’s a page from Aiken County Schools transparency site:

This is a barely legible scan of the school system’s bank statement. It is not possible to copy and paste any of the document’s information, nor is it searchable.

By contrast, here’s a page from the Berkeley County School District’s check register:

Berkeley County Schools Check Register

In this case, the school district has created a more legible PDF file where  the information can be cut and pasted , if an interested citizen wants to analyze the data more carefully. It still requires digging deeply into unorganized, cryptic information but it’s still better.

Thus, many counties are not complying with basic transparency laws, and even some that do aren’t  making things exactly … transparent.

Government can and should do better.


Written by Robert Appel

August 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

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