South Carolina State Treasurer Curtis Loftis is asking for an audit of his office as part of a budget request for next year. Loftis said he wants the Treasurer’s Office, which has not been audited since 1988, to be better equipped to manage public money. He told a Senate budget committee last week he needs nearly $1 million in additional funding.
The money would come out of the state’s Other Funds accounts and consists of revenue from the 529 College Savings Plan and other programs the agency runs.
As treasurer, Loftis is widely known for his role in handling taxpayer money, but the office also has a large role in investing and running most of the state’s financial services. It’s those services that Loftis wants to bring into the open. He says many legislators aren’t even aware of how much investment his agency does.
They don’t realize that, on the second floor of our building, we trade $3-$10 billion of investments every night. Every night we do that. They don’t understand that, (but) that’s not their fault. The Treasurers in the past have kept the money– and how we handle it– quiet.
The Senate Finance Committee has tentatively set aside $992,000 extra for the agency in its budget, although the change will require the approval of the full Senate and House before it even goes to the governor’s desk for her signature.
Most of the state’s financial contracts are up this year. Loftis wants to open those to competitive bidding, saying most of the deals were old relationships with former state officials. He said at least $32 billion worth of services will be bid out in the coming months.
He says there’s another problem. Much of the agency’s software it uses for investing and banking is out of date.
Technology, banking, and finance have changed tremendously over the last 10 or 15 years. But, the way the state has been looking at that has not changed very much. That’s one of our priorities. We’re going to update our systems and we’re going to be at the top of the game.
South Carolina has had five treasurers since 2006, when Thomas Ravenel was elected to the position. Ravenel resigned shortly into his term and was later convicted of a drug charge. He was replaced on an interim basis by attorney Ken Wingate before the Legislature appointed Converse Chellis to the post. Loftis, former head of the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging, defeated Chellis in last year’s GOP primary.
Loftis hopes to provide consistency to the agency.
The Treasurer’s Office is one of those offices that can be run like a business. My job is to safeguard the money we have and then to invest it wisely. In order for us to do that, we’ve got to be up-to-date.