On The Record
Registered Sex Offenders for Edgefield
PO Box 972
Dr. Skip Myers
State and Federal
Local Political Parties
Chamber of Commerce
The Jail Report
New York Times
New York Post
Los Angeles Times
past articles please visit our Archives
Time for a Public Financial Code of Conduct in SC
By S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom
web posted October 19, 2012
COLUMBIA – For many hardworking South
Carolinians focused on doing the right thing every day, the
embezzlement of public funds might seem to rarely occur in the Palmetto
State – you know, one of those crimes limited to corrupt, big-city
However, the exact opposite is true.
The fact is that cases of embezzling public funds have occurred at
alarming rates in recent years.
From the federal level on down to local town halls and even school
booster programs, many examples have been publicized in media headlines
on a running basis, each case revealing outrageous violations of the
Indeed, The State newspaper detailed the ugly truth of this situation
in a big Sunday spread just last month. The headline of the story says
it all: “Embezzlement epidemic plagues SC.”
The article chronicled alleged embezzlements of public funds at
locations ranging from the Savannah River Site to Clemson University to
a Columbia-area high school.
The number of similar cases has been rising, and they almost always
involve public money, the story said, citing State Law Enforcement
People entrusted with handling public money often are the very ones
accused of violating the trust they have received.
Beyond any actual financial harm, each violation inflicts terrible
social harm by eroding public confidence in the stewardship of public
So what can be done about this appalling epidemic? That’s really the
question, isn’t it? After all, laws can regulate human behavior
only so far.
Having said that, by some accounts South Carolina could benefit from a
stronger whistleblower law, one that would offer greater protection –
and rewards – to public employees who report the theft or misuse of
That seems to be a good idea, and a bill to do just that was introduced
yet didn’t pass in the last session of the General Assembly. But it’s
the responsibility of legislators to make that call, so I’ll leave it
to them to do so.
But there’s a practical matter at work here that also needs to be
Unlike what’s required of professional accountants, often called
certified public accountants or CPAs, there is no special training or
credentialing required for many state and local government employees
who oversee and handle taxpayers’ money.
And we’re talking about a lot of folks here who aren’t professional
accountants yet who undertake responsibilities normally performed by
them. It’s a point that embezzlements by professional accountants are
I suspect that the frequency of using non-accountants for positions
that normally should be filled by professional accountants is one
reason some states have adopted codes of conduct for their
Arizona is one such state. It has a single-page code of conduct that
spells out guidelines for integrity, competence, professional conduct
and conflicts of interest for its state employees engaged in accounting
and other financial activities.
Arizona’s code resembles a code produced by the National Association of
State Comptrollers, a national professional organization in which I’ve
been active for many years and am privileged to serve as its president
Like many other states, South Carolina does not require any special
training or credentialing for its state and local public employees who
oversee and handle taxpayers’ money. Because of that, it’s
reasonable to expect that having a financial code of conduct for public
employees would benefit our state.
Through researching what other states have done and seeking the input
of state and local government representatives here at home, my office
is developing such a code.
Our goal is to produce a simple but thorough single-page code of
conduct that lays out what’s expected of those who have the high duty
of carefully managing taxpayer dollars.
In the coming weeks, after this code is completed, my office will be
reaching out to government units across South Carolina, encouraging
them to adopt it. It won’t be a law. It will be a pledge made by all
who sign it. I’ll ask all signers to proudly display the pledge both on
their office walls and on their public websites.
Granted, this code will not carry the force of law. But hopefully it
will serve as a constant reminder to every public employee with access
to public money to think twice about taking shortcuts in their work or
breaking the law.
If it does, and if it deters even one case of embezzlement, it will be
worth its weight in – well – gold.
© Copyright 2012 All material is property of
Edgefield Daily and/or parent company ECL and
cannot be reproduced,
redistributed without expressed written permission.
We still need recipes for Cooking Section
WEBNEWS – Send in your favorite or
favorites. There is no limit to the number of recipes you can send in.
Help create an exchange of local favorites, home cooking,
grilling, sauces, and deserts! Send in your submissions here.