COLUMBIA, SC — State senators say they are frustrated by delays in a problem-plagued computerized child support enforcement system and want to see a resolution to the issues to prevent millions more dollars from piling up in federal penalties.
I think its ridiculous were in this position, Sen. Billy ODell, a Ware Shoals Republican, told Lillian Koller, director of the state Department of Social Services, at the end of a hearing Wednesday into DSS finances.
Weve got to figure out what weve got to do. Obviously, were not doing it right. Were striking out every time and its costing us money. Its crazy.
Odell told Koller that he wasnt blaming her for the problems because the state has been trying to build the system required by the federal government for decades.
A CEO of a business would have been fired 15 times for this, he said.
South Carolina remains the only state that hasnt yet implemented an automated child support enforcement system as required by a 1988 federal law.
As a result, the state has incurred more than $115 million in federal penalties, according to a report submitted to lawmakers this summer about the project. Contractors have paid about $50 million of that, according to the report, and the state has paid the rest.
An ongoing procurement hearing that could last for several more weeks could determine if the state or the projects third contractor that DSS fired this year will shoulder future penalties.
Koller didnt go into much detail Wednesday because of the hearing and senators on the finance subcommittee that she appeared before told The Greenville News that they are frustrated and want to see the system completed.
I think its a mess, said Sen. Joel Lourie, a Columbia Democrat.
This thing has been going since my children were born. One is 21 and the other is 18. Ive yet to understand with the way technology works today why we cant get our arms around this problem and bring it to closure. Its embarrassing to our state and abuse of its taxpayers that we continue to pay millions of dollars in fines for something that should have been fixed a long time ago.
Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a Jasper County Democrat, said the state is experiencing the same problems with information technology issues that other government agencies and private businesses are.
Sen. Thomas Alexander, a Walhalla Republican who chairs the subcommittee, said he remains frustrated over the delays.
I think so much of it is contingent on where they are with that procurement hearing, he said. Hopefully it will get resolved sooner rather than later.
The state may need almost six more years and $75 million for more federal penalties to complete the system, a lawyer representing state agencies said during opening arguments in the procurement hearing.