In June, South Carolina’s Legislative Audit Council (LAC) released a report on the use of cell phones by state agencies and their employees. The LAC identifies widespread waste and abuse ranging from poorly crafted procurement policies to outright fraud.
Chief among the culprits: South Carolina’s State Department of Education (SDE).
In 2006 SDE spent more than $90,000 on cell phones alone. This included an unbelievable $15,800 in unnecessary roaming, overage minutes, and directory assistance fees. The waste didn’t stop there. Bureaucrats blew through untold tax dollars on personal calls and even unwarranted personal downloads like ringtones and horoscopes.
In fact, almost 20 percent of the total SDE cell phone bill was overage charges.
With the taxpayers footing the bill, education bureaucrats have no incentive to pool minutes or adjust their plans – instead they just let the extra minutes rack up, month after month. Likewise, it ‘s just too difficult to use toll-free 1-800 numbers for directory assistance, when $1.49 pay-per-use “411” calls are three easy buttons away.
Wasting tax dollars on personal calls and ringtones is not just unethical. It’s illegal. In its report, the LAC observed that federal tax law places stringent limitations on agency owned phones, which are categorized as “listed state property” and subject to both reimbursement and additional taxes when used for personal calls.
South Carolina’s public schools are the worst in the nation. Fewer than half of the state’s students complete high school and those who did earn the nation’s lowest average SAT scores. With money grubbing bureaucrats wasting thousands of taxpayer’s dollars on personal calls and ringtones it is painful clear: the State Department of Education lacks the credibility and competence required to reform public education.
Only when lawmakers restructure the funding of education, and spend money on individual students (rather than the one size fits all public schools) will administrators be held to account for their waste and inefficiency.
UPDATE: Visit State Senator Kevin Bryant’s blog for more information on the LAC audit.