Simply put, when the “people’s business” is conducted in full public view, everyone wins.
If shining a light on public spending is important under normal circumstances, it’s even more important now. Billions of federal stimulus dollars are pouring into South Carolina, ostensibly to create jobs and reduce the national unemployment rate - although one full year after Washington passed the act millions more jobs have been lost and the unemployment rate has soared.
At the time of this writing, state agencies have received more than $1.1 billion in stimulus money. Such a swift and massive influx of cash creates a risk of waste, mismanagement and even fraud, so there must be ample oversight and transparency. That’s why, months ago, my office began posting stimulus spending detail on our Web site.
With just a few mouse clicks, citizens can view individual stimulus expenditures made by state agencies. The public can see, for example, that on Dec. 8, one agency spent $297 in federal stimulus money at Mack’s Restaurant in Columbia, or that on Dec. 14, one agency sent $10,925 to the Columbia City Ballet. The information is presented in an easily searchable PDF file. It is available at cg.sc.gov and stimuls.sc.gov.
In urging Americans to support this unprecedented spending plan, the White House pledged there would be an unprecedented level of transparency for stimulus spending. Unfortunately, that pledge has gone largely unfulfilled. Under the stimulus act, only a small portion of the spending is required to be publicly reported, and the quarterly reports posted by the White House tend to be mainly a political move on its part, hoping to show a large number of jobs saved or created by the spending. Even worse, the White House’s jobs reports appear to have been significantly inflated, which futher serves to undermine its promise of transparency.
While the way we’ve presented this information is probably far from perfect (and we’re asking people for suggestions to improve what we present), we thought it important to show, as clearly as we can, where the stimulus money is going. South Carolinians -- the majority of whom probably opposed the $787 billion stimulus give-away package -- deserve the peace of mind that someone is keeping an eye on that spending. With more sets of eyes following the money, there’s less chance of waste, fraud or mismanagement.