Throwback Thursday: Taxpayers’ cost for secret Santee Cooper bids

February 13, 2020

Inside Insight

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This week, the S.C. Department of Administration released an official report detailing three different options for the future of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. This report concludes a months-long, closed-door process of collecting and analyzing purchase and management offers, as well as Santee Cooper’s own “reform” proposal.

The collection and evaluation of offers were not carried out according to the state’s procurement laws (the state’s process for selecting contractors, vendors and personnel). Instead – in a process detailed by lawmakers, who suspended the procurement laws for this situation – the Department of Administration hired eight private consulting or law firms to help qualify bids, analyze proposals and negotiate contracts. These experts also were instructed by lawmakers to select which purchase offer and management offer to recommend to the General Assembly.

Although this process was not carried out in accordance with state law, was led by unaccountable bureaucrats and private-sector experts instead of the Santee Cooper Advisory Board (which is fully accountable to the public), and that the entire process was carried out behind closed doors with disclosure to the public after the fact, taxpayers and ratepayers are footing the bill for it. Below is a breakdown published by The Nerve last month of the costs at that time and the private firms that are receiving funding.

Taxpayer, ratepayer tab totals $9M so far for review of secret Santee Cooper bids

Eight private firms hired by the state to evaluate proposals for the sale or management of state-owned utility Santee Cooper have charged a total of more than $9.2 million – $5 million of it covered by taxpayers – for their work, newly released records show.

And the overall bill to ratepayers with Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper and the state’s electric cooperatives, which collectively serve about 2 million residents, could grow by about $11 million when the selected proposals are presented to the Legislature.

The S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA) has a special $20 million pot to cover the review costs. It includes $5 million from state budget surplus funds for this fiscal year, which ends June 30; and a $15 million transfer from Santee Cooper, of which $10.5 million is covered by the state’s 20 electric cooperatives, which receive power from Santee Cooper.

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