Comptroller reports $3.5 billion error in state accounting

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Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 11:28 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s top accountant says a mistake made over a decade period led his office to report the state had $3.5 billion more in reserve than it actually had.

Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom told a Senate budget-writing panel the error showed up in the state’s official accounting document.

Eckstrom says the state accounting system had been double-counting money transfers to colleges and universities, which use different accounting systems.

The Senate Finance Committee Chair Harvey Peeler said this will not affect budgeting for this year. Peeler also said the state has not been spending money it doesn’t have.

Peeler said, “They’re going to go on a deep dive into this situation and get to the bottom of it. … We’ll see just how deep it goes, how far it goes, and why. Right now, we want to know what happened, why it happened, and what we’re doing to make sure this never happens again.”

Budget writing doesn’t use the report where the $3.5 billion error showed up when the state’s spending plan is crafted. National rating agencies do.

Eckstrom said to his knowledge the error has not affected South Carolina’s credit rating because the state maintains so much money in its reserves.

Friday State Rep. Heather Bauer (D-Richland) and several other House Democrats filed a letter to the Legislative Audit Council. The letter calls for an audit and a hearing to give lawmakers more clarity on what happened.

The co-signers on the letter are:

  • Rep. Beth Bernstein (Richland)
  • Rep. Bill Clyburn (Aiken)
  • Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (Orangeburg)
  • Rep. Kambrell Garvin (Richland)
  • Rep. John King (York)
  • Rep. Roger Kirby (Florence)
  • Rep. Jermaine Johnson (Richland)
  • Rep. Annie McDaniel (Fairfield)
  • Rep. Michael Rivers (Beaufort)
  • Rep. Seth Rose (Richland)
  • Rep. Todd Rutherford (Richland)

The letter reads in part, “We are elected to do due diligence for our constituents, and without a complete and correct budget, we are unable to legislate in good conscience.”

It also states Bauer is requesting an amended State of the State from Governor Henry McMaster. The letter says McMaster based his speech around the well-being of the state budget, reserve fund, and higher education institutions.

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