$3.5B accounting error gets SC comptroller in hot water


A $3.5 billion accounting error has South Carolina lawmakers initiating the process to oust the comptroller general responsible, CPA Richard Eckstrom.

Eckstrom told senators last month he had unintentionally exaggerated the state’s cash position by $3.5 billion by overstating the amount the state had sent to colleges and universities for a decade, according to the Associated Press. 

The error was in the way the state reports its balance sheets and could affect South Carolina’s credit ranking.

Republican Eckstrom has held the role of comptroller general for 20 years, and prior to that served as state treasurer for four years. He has indicated he will not resign, following state senators’ calls for him to quit or be fired, the AP reported. 

A resolution was introduced Thursday seeking a two-thirds vote from the House and the Senate to trigger a state constitutional provision that says the governor should remove Eckstrom for “willful neglect of duty.” The AP reported that while the constitution allows Eckstrom a hearing in his own defense, the procedure is unclear, as several senators could not recall the process being used since it was added to the constitution more than 50 years ago. 

The error, Eckstrom told senators at hearings, started as a $12 million coding error in 2007 and was complicated when the state switched accounting systems in 2011.

State cash transferred to colleges and universities was being double-counted and auditors said Eckstrom ignored repeated warnings about the problem. Auditors said he then waited five years to conduct a full review of accounts that eventually helped uncover the problem about a year ago.

“At least for a decade we know that he has signed his name, Richard Eckstrom, CPA, on our state’s closing financial document and every year he has been wrong,” said Republican Sen. Larry Grooms, who is sponsoring the resolution for the governor to remove Eckstrom. 

Eckstrom issued a statement Wednesday that he is not resigning, saying his office worked to fix the problem when it arose in 2013. 

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said that Eckstrom should be held accountable by voters, and not be impeached.

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