South Carolina’s top accountant admits $3.5 billion accounting error

$3.5 Billion Accounting Error
Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBIA, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - South Carolina’s top accountant says the mistake led to reporting $3.5 billion more than the state actually had.

On Thursday, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom discussed the budget blunder with senators who oversee his agency’s financial spending.

A senate finance subcommittee questioned Eckstrom about the decade-long oversight.

Senator Thomas McElveen asked, “During how many years was the state’s cash position misstated?”

Eckstrom replied, “Roughly ten.”

The state’s chief accountant said the state accounting system had been double counting money transferred to colleges and universities since at least 2012.

Eckstrom explained to senators that the issue started when the state changed accounting systems, creating confusion about how to report those funds.

The office first noticed the error nine years later, during the pandemic.

“Because of the infusion of COVID money that got passed out to colleges and universities and it was only the transfers from colleges and universities that created this. That’s where they were the issue occurred,” Eckstrom said.

Eckstrom told senators that the state has not been spending money it does not have and this oversight will not impact this year’s budget.

And it will not impact this year’s budget.

When Senator McElveen asked if this would impact the state’s credit rating, Eckstrom said, “I’m not expecting it, but I would not rule it out. I don’t want to mislead you.”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Harvey Peeler, from Cherokee County, said senators will get to the bottom of this.

“We want to know what happened, why it happened, and what we’re doing to make sure this never happens again.”

Eckstrom said he first told Governor McMaster’s staff about the mistake in November 2022.

McMaster’s office released this statement to FOX Carolina, “The governor is confident that the issue has been identified and resolved. Members of the General Assembly have indicated that they plan on taking a close look at the situation, which will help ensure that it won’t happen again.”

The Finance Subcommittee asked Eckstrom to prepare a report because they have more questions.