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SCDSS Database Debacle Escalates

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MILLIONS MORE TAX DOLLARS GOING DOWN THE DRAIN …

For years, this website has been all over the ongoing child support enforcement database debacle taking place at governor Nikki Haley‘s Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

For our latest treatment of this massive goat rodeo, click here (another report can be found here).

Bottom line?  Palmetto State taxpayers have racked up $145 million in project costs and $135 million in fines related to SCDSS’ ongoing failure to create a functioning computer system to track child support payments – a system the federal government has mandated.

This failure is sad … but not surprising.

SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster Haley took office in 2011 – most notably as it relates to multiple instances in which vulnerable children were repeatedly placed in abusive homes.

But the agency’s failure is much bigger and broader than that – even after Haley was forced to fire her first “rock star” agency director.

Earlier this year, a group of technology providers offered to fix the agency’s botched child support system – asking only a fraction of the annual fines assessed by the federal government.

In other words, getting paid was dependent on them fixing the program.

SCDSS officials declined the offer.

Why?  Let’s delve into that …

According to reporter Tim Smith of The Greenville News, South Carolina taxpayers can expect to shell out another $63 million in federal fines before the new system is operational in October of 2018.

Program costs for the new system are expected to top $140 million – with estimated annual maintenance costs of $18 million (compared to $1 million annually for the modern database the agency rejected).

In other words, having already flushed $280 million down the drain … for nothing … taxpayers are now on the hook for another $200 million (and nearly $20 million annually).

Add it all up and we’re talking about a half-billion dollar debacle …

(Click to view)

Money Toilet

(Via iStock)

Why is SCDSS’ proposed system so expensive?  Seriously: Why can’t South Carolina just copy one of the systems currently in use by the forty-nine compliant states?

Good question …

“Each county is getting a custom built system because SCDSS claims it would be too complicated to train new employees on a system different from one they have been doing for the last thirty years,” guest columnist Colin Ross wrote for our site earlier this year.  “So, they are purposefully designing the new system to match their complexity of the older systems.”

According to our sources, though, this ridiculously costly county-by-county arrangement has absolutely nothing to do with “training” issues.  Instead, it is all about county governments eager to keep their administrative “cut” of child support payments.

One SCDSS source told us this is the root of the problem – “the clerks not wanting to lose their five percent … losing their clerk of court employees and incentive money.”

“This isn’t about a multitude of computer companies that haven’t been able to get (the system) up and running,” the source added.  “We all know that.”

Apparently state leaders don’t know that, though – or if they do, they are complicit in the scam.

Smith’s story quotes SCDSS director Susan Alford as saying the child support enforcement debacle is “the first question (Haley) asks and it’s the last question she asks” at each month’s cabinet meeting.

Well, our question is this: Why does the governor have to ask the same question over and over again if everybody knows the answer?

“At some point they can’t keep putting the blame on these computer companies, someone has to get to the bottom of the reason for the constant hold ups and obviously this many years in it isn’t because they can’t find a company who can effectively do it,” our source explained.  “Haley should already be (investigating it) but that investigation would probably show how she has sat on it for eight years after she promised it would be up and running when she took office.”

In fact several SCDSS employees have actually gone on social media explaining that the “five percent problem” is what is holding the state up.

Bottom line?  This is criminal negligence.  And whatever the reason for it is … it needs to stop now.

(Banner via iStock)

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