Eckstrom: Combining Financial Offices Makes Sense

By Richard Eckstrom

Given the financial challenges state government faces, it’s more important than ever that we examine ways to reduce the cost of government… to streamline operations and eliminate wasteful or duplicative spending so that government can provide needed services as affordably as possible.

I recently proposed a reform that will save money. In a letter to an S.C. Senate subcommittee, I recommended consolidating the state’s two financial agencies – the Treasurer’s Office and the Comptroller’s Office – into a single department reporting directly to the Governor’s Office.

Here’s why I proposed what I did.

I’m of the mindset that the Comptroller — which is the state’s accountant — should be an appointed position instead of an elected one. I had a similar mindset about the job of Treasurer when I served in that position in the 1990s..  Because these offices are mostly technical in nature, they ought to be free from political influence. Instead of electing a Comptroller or Treasurer based upon party affiliation or ability to attract votes, these two positions should be appointed based entirely on professional qualifications.

Furthermore, as the state’s accountant, the Comptroller absolutely must be a certified public accountant (CPA).  Accurately accounting for and administering state finances is far too important a function to leave to someone lacking the professional credentials of a qualified CPA.

I’ve also been pushing hard for crucial accounting positions throughout government to be filled by CPAs — not just at state agencies, but in school districts and local governments too. Qualified CPAs are indispensable to accurately track and report on financial activities. CPAs receive the specialized training and skills to help catch or prevent fraud and other financial misconduct. This in turn safeguards the public purse and protects funds for where they’re most needed.

(It’s important to note that my proposal was to let voters decide in a statewide referendum – which would be required by law — whether these two positions should be appointed. So these offices could be combined only if it’s the will of the voters.)

Here’s why: Although the Comptroller and Treasurer operate separate offices or agencies (the Comptroller is the state’s accountant and administers the budget; the Treasurer handles banking and borrowing relationships for the state), each office provides financial services for state government. My proposal would organize the state’s finance operations into a finance department similar to how most major corporations organize theirs. By putting these functions under the Governor’s Office, the Governor could maintain any needed checks and balances over the combined finance department, be held accountable for it, and gain important functions needed by any governor to more effectively govern.

I’ve served as both Comptroller and Treasurer, which gives me unique insights into both offices. While the functions performed by both offices are important, it makes little sense to continue operating them separately. Doing so unnecessarily duplicates many of the administrative or “overhead” costs of running two separate agencies.

It’s significant that the Legislature is also considering ways to logically combine other state agencies that offer related services, such as the state’s current mix of agencies that provide health care services or the various agencies that deal with prisoners.   This is being done to increase efficiency and coordination throughout state government.

One thing is certain: Now is the time to reform government… to make it leaner, more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the citizens. We all want a brighter future for South Carolina. It certainly stands to reason that, if we’re to truly move our state forward, we must first improve the dated structure of state government so taxpayers are able to keep more of their own, hard-earned money.

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Richard Eckstrom, a CPA, has served as South Carolina’s Comptroller General since 2002. From 1994 to 1998, Eckstrom served as State Treasurer. Eckstrom is the first CPA to hold the financial positions of Treasurer or Comptroller General. Prior to being elected Treasurer, he was a practicing CPA with an international accounting firm.

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6 thoughts on “Eckstrom: Combining Financial Offices Makes Sense

  1. Reasons not to listen to Dick Eckstrom:

    The Legislative audit Council says there is little or no reason to combine the
    offices. (see link below)
    Eckstrom is being sued by his wife for adultery.
    His girlfriend filed papers against him for stalking. (See link below)
    He was busted for SEXTING with his girlfriend while he was at work and in Budget and Control Board meetings.
    He was thrown out of the Treasurer’s office by the voters after sexually harassing an employee and having the state pay her off to keep suit being filed.
    He had to reimburse the state for charges for taking a state car to MINNESOTA on vacation. He checked out a mini-van especially for that purpose.
    And we are going to trust this man with ALL of our money???
    PS…he will nearly double his paycheck by taking both offices. What did he promise Haley for that privilege?
    PSS He is a Christian Conservative

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    • Reasons not to listen to Jill:

      Richard Eckstrom has an exceptionally unique perspective on this subject having held both (ELECTED) offices for a combined 12 years and as a CPA.

      It takes a considerably naive, uneducated or ignorant person to believe that combining the two positions would mean DOUBLE the salary.

      WHAT does his religion have to do with ANYthing?

      Most of the rest of what you had to say is immaterial to the subject. He won election to a THIRD term as comptroller by a wide margin. If you didn’t vote for him, too bad.

      If you don’t want a more efficient, streamlined and cost-effective government, then shame on you.

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  2. I would think that the comptroller general’s task would be all
    consuming. Can you have a mature integrated accounting
    system that bounds all state agencies when all state agencies
    are unsettled – and always will be? It’s a noble goal that requires
    heavy lifting, lots of time – and you never quite get there. If I were
    the Comptroller and the fiscal eye begins to focus – well,
    have you ever had a cold sweat.

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    • I have been told that S.C state gov’t has had a
      mature accounting system since 2009. This
      system is known as SCEIS (South Carolina
      Enterprise Information System).

      Eckstrom knows best.

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  3. If you are qualified to do your job (and it sounds like he is since he has done both), eliminate one salary, mainstream the financial side so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, then it is a win / win situation for the State.
    As far as his personal life goes, it should stay personal.
    As far a making advances to a female at work, being a female myself, I know how to nip those things in the bud quickly – most females I know- know how to handle those situtations too (AND was it a truly UNWELCOME and one sided situtation?).
    I am sure the State agencies have steps in place for harrassment without fear of losing your job – in addition to he would be under the microscope….

    Sounds like he has some good ideas. I say go with it…

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