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SC Child Support Database: Epic Fail

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We don’t like using the term “epic fail” around here because it’s frankly a bit overplayed – minimizing the “epic” nature of whatever “fail” it is we’re referring to.

In the case of South Carolina’s child support enforcement database, however, “epic fail” is truly the only way to describe the situation. To recap: In 1988 the federal government mandated the creation of a centralized computer system to monitor child support payments – giving states ten years to set up their networks. Not only did the Palmetto State fail to get its system up and running on time, by 2006 it was the only state in the nation still lacking such a database – an ongoing failure which has resulted in the accumulation of tens of millions of dollars in fines.

In fact for those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina has been fined $104 million by the federal government over the last decade-and-a-half for failing to create this database – fines which rise annually (the most recent annual bill was $11 million).

Don’t get us wrong … the child support enforcement database is an unfunded mandate of the worst sort. South Carolina’s judicial branch ought to be in charge of establishing its own system for handling child support payments – free from federal interference. But this isn’t a case of South Carolina standing on principle against overreaching edicts from Washington, D.C.

Our state has been trying to build this system for nearly two decades – spending more than $66 million (on top of all the fines). What has this massive investment managed to produce?

Nothing …

That’s right … all told, $170 million has been blown in relation to this boondoggle and there is still no system in place.

That tab is likely to climb even higher in the coming months …

According to our sources at the S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS) – the government agency responsible for administering this system – the state has suffered yet another major setback on this project.

“Millions spent on new (SCDSS) child support enforcement software just crumbled,” our source tells us. “(Hewlett-Packard) walked away from the project.”

Wow …

Representatives from Hewlett-Packard did not immediately respond to our request for comment, and SCDSS has a longstanding practice of stonewalling our media requests – including inquiries sent under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws.

If the new system has indeed crashed, it would mean South Carolina must start from scratch on its database … all over again.

SCDSS told lawmakers last year the  child support enforcement system would be up and running this summer. It’s looking increasingly like the agency is going to miss another deadline – meaning more fines and more contract costs for Palmetto taxpayers.

This is beyond ridiculous, people … unless of course you’re a fan of flushing $170 million down the toilet with absolutely nothing to show for it.

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