State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom has worked on convincing local governments to post spending information online so taxpayers could see how the government is using their tax dollars. Charleston County has followed through on this.
“It started with an inquiry on the part a council member. It is also related to the fact that with the federal stimulus money there’s a lot of interest in the results and the transparency of the expenditures, but we actually expanded to all expenditures in Charleston County, thinking that it would be a good way to instill confidence in the citizens that we have nothing to hide and we are spending money appropriately,” says Keith Bustraan with Charleston County.
The report includes any payments over $100 that the county makes, with the exception of payroll checks. Bustraan gives some examples of what someone can see on the web posting.
“Firefighting supplies, it would be gasoline expenditures, it would be large capital purchases, we are in the process of constructing a jail, so those payments to those vendors would show up as well,” says Bustraan.
Bustraan explains reasons why Charleston County agreed to become transparent: “There has been some legislation floating around in the General Assembly for the past couple of years. It has not passed, but I think it was Controller General Eckstrom that has been talking this up that it is something that local governments should do anyway. One council member, in particular, Joe McKeown, adopted that as a priority for him and asked us to see if we could do that. It was fairly easy, all we had to do is write a report and put it on our web page. It was pretty simple.”
Initially, when Eckstrom proposed that local governments post their spending online, some objected and argued that it would cost too much to do so. Eckstrom said that is not the case, and he says it is very cheap and easy to do.
Every month Charleston County will post a report. This month’s report is already online for the public to view at www.charlestoncounty.org.