Nine months of records show state government employees spent nearly $5 million on cell phone calls with a state issued phone. The Department of Health and Environmental Control has the most cell phone usage in the state with 1,560 phones.
The Post and Courier reports Daniel Island Representative Jim Merrill says House budget writers are looking at cell phone expenses. Meanwhile, Berkeley Senator Paul Campbell told Charleston affiliate WTMA that the phones are needed, but need to be monitored.
Electronics are supposed to make people more efficient and effective in what they do, and if it is used properly, it’s not a very expensive device. We need to make sure we have good programs, we need to make sure we are getting the most efficient programs, we need to restrict the calls on the phones, but you need electronics to make your job easier, otherwise you have to hire more people.
Critics of state-issued cell phones say that if a job requires a cell phone, those employees should know that and have their own. However, Campbell says he doesn’t see a problem with the employees being issued a phone, as long as it is in moderation.
They’re probably using them for personal business, which is fine with me, as long as you have them and then as long as it is a good program so you don’t pay extra for those minutes. If they are using them too much for those minutes, then they ought to pay for those types of minutes. For cell phone usage, you can make them pay for the $500 cell phone, but then do you figure it in to the salary you pay them? I think I would rather pay for the cell phone and have a lower salary.
Campbell says he understands the complaints about spending money on state cell phones, but says there are other ways of getting around it.
We’ve become very loose with those types of things. We probably need to tighten down at the state level. But, I would like to see how they are being used, who has them, and where they are located. DHEC, DOT, SLED, the Highway Patrol, local police force, public safety people. Those are the people who need them all the time. DHEC has to be out and about doing emergencies, if you have spills, or you have something on an environmental situation or have to be at the hospital to check those types of things.
The Post and Courier newspaper reported that a fourth of the 67,000 state employees have a government issued cell phone.