Evaluation of South Carolina state website

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SC.gov is the website for the state of South Carolina.

Website evaluation

Grade2.pngC
Budget P
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Usability P
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Elected Officials
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Administrative Officials
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Ethics
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Audits
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Contracts
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Lobbying P
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Public records P
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Taxes
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State agency websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process


This website was reviewed on January 24, 2012.

The good

  • Agencies are listed, with contact information on their pages,[1] and a state employee telephone directory is posted.[2]
  • Elected officials are listed with contact information.[3]
  • The state has transparency sites.[4][5]
  • Contracts are posted in a searchable database.[6] Bid opportunities and statewide contracts are posted.[7]
  • Audits are posted.[8]
  • The state budget appears to be available only broken down by agency.[9]
  • Ethics information is posted.[10]
  • Tax information is available.[11]
  • Lobbyist lists and reports are published.[12]

The bad

  • The site has a search function but is somewhat difficult to navigate.
  • Comprehensive budgets or budget summaries are not available.
  • No information is available on Taxpayer-funded lobbying.
  • While some agencies have instructions for how to make public records requests,[13] no comprehensive information, forms, or contacts are provided.

Note from 2011 rating

  • The site briefly disabled the ability to record streaming of the senate and house, but quickly revived the feature after watchdogs complained.[14]

U.S. PIRG rating

The U.S. PIRG rated the state website a "C-" on providing online access to government spending data, with a score of 66.5 out of 100.[15]

The scorecard that U.S. PIRG uses has 13 items and focuses on a separate state website that is searchable at the checkbook level. Sunshine Review, on the other hand, focuses on the availability of separate spending-related items; they do not need to be in a central database.

Item Possible points Notes
Checkbook-level website 30 Detailed expenditure information, including individual payments made to vendors.
Search by vendor 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by contractor or vendor name.
Search by keyword of activity 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by type of service or item purchased, category, or government fund.
Search by agency or departments 8 Ability to search checkbook-level expenditures by branch of government.
Contract or summary information 10 A copy of the contract or detailed summary information is included for the expenditures.
Historical expenditures 5 Checkbook-level expenditure data from previous fiscal years.
Grants and economic development incentives information 10 Awardee-specific grants and/or economic development incentives are included in the checkbook tool or elsewhere with specific award amounts.
Downloadable 3 Information can be downloaded for data analysis.
Tax expenditure reports 10 The state's tax expenditure report is linked on the website.
Off-budget agencies 2 Expenditures from quasi-public agencies are included on the website.
City and county budgets 2 Financial information for some local governments is accessible.
ARRA Funding 2 A link is provided to the state's website that tracks funding related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Feedback 2 Website users are capable and encouraged to give feedback about the site.

There are several similarities between the checklists. For both checklists, the searchability of information factors in to how usability is rated. Both checklists have an item relating to contracts, tax information, and the budget. The U.S. PIRG requires information for quasi public entities; Sunshine Review requires information on lobbying, which includes quasi public entities' lobbying activity.

Unlike the Sunshine Review checklist with each check worth one point, different items on the U.S. PIRG checklist merit more or fewer points, depending on the item.

State Integrity Investigation

The 2012 State Integrity Investigation graded state ethics laws according to an "Integrity Index." The index was created by researching 330 "Integrity Indicators" across 14 categories of state government. The report assigned grades based on what laws are on the books, and whether or not they were effectively enforced. The report was a project of The Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.[16]

South Carolina received an overall grade of F, or 57%. It ranked 45 out of the 50 states.[17]

Category Grade
Public Access to Information F
Political Financing D-
Executive Accountability F
Legislative Accountability F
Judicial Accountability F
State Budget Processes F
State Civil Service Management F
Procurement B-
Internal Auditing C+
Lobbying Disclosure B
State Pension Fund Management F
Ethics Enforcement Agencies F
State Insurance Commissions F
Redistricting B-

Transparency legislation

Republican Sen. Tom Davis proposed transparency legislation in 2011 to "overhaul" how state subsidies and economic incentives were awarded.[18]

Resources

Resource Run by Includes Year URL
SC Spending Transparency State Expenditures 2011 https://ssl.sc.gov/SpendingTransparency/BudgetTransparencyMain.aspx
State Ethics Commission State Campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure 2011 http://apps.sc.gov/PublicReporting/Index.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
The Budget and Control Board Transparency Hub State Budget info, contracts, projects, salaries, agency spending 2011 http://www.transparency.sc.gov/BCB/transparency/BCB-transparency-hub.phtm
Comptroller General Sate Local Government Spending Transparency 2011 https://web.archive.org/web/2/http://www.cg.state.sc.us/transparency/
Follow the Money National Institute on Money in Politics Campaign contributions 2010 http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?y=2010&s=SC

Salaries

State and Local Employees

According to 2008 Census data, the state of South Carolina and local governments in the state employed a total of 290,248 people.[19] Of those employees, 241,725 were full-time employees receiving a net pay of $826,764,431 per month and 48,703 were part-time employees paid $48,338,796 per month.[19] More than 54% of those employees, or 159,155 employees, were in education or higher education.[19]

As of 2010, 15,224 employees in South Carolina make over $50,000/year. Their combined salaries equal $1,133,969,806.00.[20]

State Employee Benefits

Holidays

State employees receive the following 12 paid holidays[21]:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • George Washington's Birthday/President's Day
  • Confederate Memorial Day
  • National Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Day after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day
  • Day after Christmas

Annual Leave

State employees working 40 hours per week earn 1.25 days of annual leave per month for a total of 15 days per year. Annual leave for a part-time employees in a permanent position is based on the number of hours worked per week.[21]

After 10 years of service with the State, employees earn annual leave at a higher rate that increases annually for each year of service. No more than 45 annual leave days may be carried over from one calendar year to the next.[21]

Sick leave

State employees working 40 hours per week earn 1.25 days of sick leave per month for a total of 15 days per year. Employees may use up to 10 days of sick leave annually to care for immediate family members. Up to 180 sick leave days may be carried over from one calendar year to the next.[21]

Insurance

Full-time, permanent employees are eligible for insurance benefits.[22]

Medical

Employees can choose from three different health plans, including a PPO and two HMOs.[23] All plans include prescription and mental health coverage.[23]

The different plans each cost the state approximately $260 for an employee seeking individual coverage.[24] The PPO offers a savings plan and a standard plan. The standard plan costs employees $9.28. per month for individual coverage and the standard plan costs $93.46 per month for individual coverage.[23] The HMOs cost employees either $185.56 or $251 per month for individual coverage.[23]

Dental

Dental insurance is available to employees, and at no cost to an employee with basic individual coverage.[24] The state contributes $11.71 per month.[24]

Vision

Vision insurance is available to employees as well. Individual coverage costs $7.76 per month.[24]

Life

The state provides free term life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance to employees enrolled in a health plan. Employees younger than 70 receive $3,000 in life insurance. Those 70 and older receive $1,500.[23] Employees can increase the amount with supplemental coverage.[23]

Other

Employees can also opt to add basic long term disability insurance, supplemental long term disability insurance and long term care insurance.[23]

Other Benefits

  • Flexible Spending Accounts enable an active employees to save money on eligible medical and dependent care costs by paying these expenses with money deducted from his salary before taxes through a Medical Spending Account; a limited-use Medical Spending Account, which can accompany a Health Savings Account; and a Dependent Care Spending Account.[23]

Pensions

Newly hired state employees may elect membership in the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS) defined benefit plan or the State Optional Retirement Program (State ORP) defined contribution plan.[25]

In addition, the SC Deferred Compensation Program (SCDCP) offers two voluntary supplemental retirement plans to South Carolina’s state employees. The SCDCP’s 401(k) and 457 plans permit employees to save on a pre-tax basis for retirement.[25]

Contribution Rate

Regardless of the plan in which they are enrolled, employees contribute a tax-deferred 6.5% of gross pay into their retirement account.[25] The state contributes 9.24% of pay.[26]

Each employee's account earns 4% interest compounded annually on your balance as of the previous June 30.[27]

Funding Levels

The state's pension liabilities can be calculated in a variety of ways, which yield different numbers. Below are the numbers as calculated by to the Pew Center on the States,[28] the American Enterprise Institute[29] and Professors Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Chicago and Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management.[30]

In Thousands
PEW (2008) AEI (2008) Kellogg (2009)
$12,052,684 $36,268,910 $43,200,000

Other information from the Pew Center on the States Feb. 2010 publication "The Trillion Dollar Gap":

State Pension Funding Levels 2008 (figures are in thousands)[31]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$40,318,436 $12,052,684 $902,340 $902,365
State Retiree Healthcare and Other Non-Pension Benefits Funding 2008 (figures are in thousands)[31]
Latest liability Latest unfunded liability Annual required contribution Latest actual contribution
$8,791,792 $8,638,076 $762,340 $241,383
Underfunded pension liabilities
Number of pension plans Pension assets ($bn) Stated liabilities ($bn) Funding status (% of tax revenue)
2 $21.8 $39.7 -537%

This data is based on projected data from 2008 census data.[32] In 2008, $1.94 trillion was set aside for pensions, but it is estimated that states have $5.17 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Public Records

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in South Carolina.

The South Carolina Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: South Carolina FOIA procedures.

External links

References

  1. SC.gov, "Agency Listing," accessed January 24, 2012
  2. SC.gov, "Phone Directory," accessed January 24, 2012
  3. SC.gov, "Elected Officials," accessed January 24, 2012
  4. SC.gov, "Transparency Hub," accessed January 24, 2012
  5. SC.gov, "Spending Transparency," accessed January 24, 2012
  6. SC.gov, "Contract Search," accessed January 24, 2012
  7. SC.gov, "Procurement," accessed January 24, 2012
  8. SC.gov, "CAFR," accessed January 24, 2012
  9. SC.gov, "Budget Plans," accessed January 24, 2012
  10. SC.gov, "Ethics Commission," accessed January 24, 2012
  11. SC.gov, "Department of Revenue," accessed January 24, 2012
  12. SC.gov, "Lobbying," accessed January 24, 2012
  13. SC.gov, "Search: Freedom of Information," accessed January 24, 2012 (dead link)
  14. The Nerve, Legislative Site Gains Features, Loses Recording, Jan. 31, 2011
  15. US PIRG, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, March 14, 2012
  16. "50 states and no winners," State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  17. South Carolina Corruption Risk Report Card, State Integrity Investigation, StateIntegrity.org
  18. Watchdog, S.C. Bill Proposes Transparency in Incentives, Dec. 22, 2010
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 2008 South Carolina Public Employment U.S. Census Data
  20. The South Carolina Budget and Control Board "Query State Salaries Over $50,000" Last checked March 1, 2011
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Leave Package
  22. Active employees
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 23.7 General Information on Insurance Benefits
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Insurance Rates
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Employee Benefits Brochure
  26. Select Your Retirement Plan Publication 2009
  27. SCRS Active Members
  28. "State Pensions and Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Trillion Dollar Gap,” Pew Center on the States, accessed January 4, 2011
  29. Biggs, Andrew, “The Market Value of Public-Sector Pension Deficits,” AEI Outlook Series, no. 1 (2010)
  30. Novy-Marx, Robert and Joshua Rauh, 2010, "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth," Journal of Finance (forthcoming)
  31. 31.0 31.1 Pew Center on the States "The Trillion Dollar Gap" Feb. 2010
  32. Northwestern University, The Liabilities and Risks of State-Sponsored Pension Plans, May 2010