Last month, this website sent a simple, straightforward Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) seeking information from its director, Lillian Koller, regarding “the total number of beneficiaries and total cost to taxpayers” of the food stamp programs administered by the agency.
“Please be advised that you have asked for records which will require extensive research and copying,” the agency’s director of constituent services and public information wrote to us (two weeks after we submitted our request).
The letter then instructs us to “narrow the scope” of our inquiry, while promising to provide us with a cost estimate for the information we requested “soon.”
More than a month later, we’ve heard nothing …
Needless to say, our founding editor Will Folks (a.k.a. “Sic Willie”) isn’t taking the agency’s evasiveness lying down.
“Your agency administers (South Carolina’s food stamp programs),” he wrote. “How does its leadership not know off the top of its head how many people these programs serve – and their cost? How would simple, straightforward information like that take ‘extensive research’ to compile?”
Last time we checked, South Carolina doled out $1.4 billion worth of food stamps each year … not very efficiently, either. In fact SCDSS has been accused of artificially lowering its error rate for this program in an effort to secure additional funding from the federal government. In fact our goal in obtaining this information is to determine the extent to which levels have risen and fallen in recent months.
We get that SCDSS doesn’t like us … or our aggressive manner of taxpayer advocacy. We also get that it doesn’t want to provide us this information.
But that doesn’t give its leadership the right to stonewall legitimate inquiries seeking the most basic information about the agency’s programs.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley campaigned on a platform of transparency. This is just the latest in a long line of failings on that front …