Since taking office, Gov. Nikki Haleys mantra has been jobs, jobs, jobs, and her administration has had success in bringing new industry to South Carolina. But she needs to make sure that the states Department of Employment and Workforce also is doing its job helping South Carolinians find work.
A recent performance audit suggests theres still work to be done, despite the 2010 legislative reform of the state employment agency. Problems were cited across a wide range of services offered by the agency statewide.
For example, the Legislative Audit Council found in one sample of claimants that those receiving agency re-employment services actually obtained unemployment benefits longer than those who didnt 26.5 weeks vs. 22.3 weeks.
The officials did not know why, the LAC reported.
Further, the LAC found that tests administered to claimants to help qualify them for jobs, such as typing tests, werent generally recorded on their assessments.
The agency needs to do a better job getting feedback from employers regarding the re-employment services it provides, the LAC concluded.
Extensive problems also were cited in eligibility reviews for jobless benefits, including verification of job search requirements. In many instances, the agency simply relied on information provided by the claimant.
The experience of other states suggests that South Carolina could save millions if unemployment benefit claims were systematically reviewed for fraud.
The DEW is the renamed Employment Security Commission, and anyone who followed the disastrous history of that agency in its latter months understands why the name was changed.
In its previous incarnation, the agency left the state about $900 million in debt for unemployment benefits. The state had to get a federal loan to keep providing those benefits due to jobless South Carolinians.
The state has made progress paying that off, and the 2010 reform got rid of the agencys governance structure and its incompetent administration in favor of a Cabinet agency.
Based on the departments response to the audit, officials are willing to make necessary changes. Indeed, some improvements already are under way.
The importance of competent workforce support can hardly be overstated as the Legislature tightens eligibility for unemployed benefits and as federal jobless support declines.
The shortcomings of the state employment agency and the administrations ongoing focus on putting people to work underscore the need for strong executive oversight.
The governor should ensure that the Department of Employment and Workforce has made the necessary corrections and that the overall agency has improved from the ground up.
Under the Cabinet form of government, Mrs. Haley is charged with providing leadership and oversight to the agencies under her authority, and is accountable to the voters for the job she does.
The audit says that the agencys reform is, at best, a work in progress.