The news from the US state of South Carolina actually sounds like every treasurer’s dream: more or less surprisingly, a whopping 1.8 billion US dollars (around 1.66 billion euros) suddenly appear in a state account. Instead of joy and relaxation, however, the discovery triggers anger and stress. Investigating where exactly the money comes from, whether it only exists virtually or whether it will possibly disappear again as quickly as it appeared is complicated.

The state Senate scheduled a hearing on the issue and invited State Treasurer – comparable to the position of a state-level finance minister in Germany – Curtis M. Loftis Jr. to provide clarification. “You cannot imagine the work we have done; it was passed on to us because another agency failed,” the New York Times (NYT) quotes Loftis’ statement. In other words, the tax authorities are not responsible for the ambiguities.

However, the committee chairman, Lawrence K. Grooms, is not satisfied with this. “Mr. Loftis has denied his responsibility […],” he summarized in the committee and added in an interview the following day, from which the “NYT” quotes: “Every State Treasurer for 80 years or longer has been in a position to do so to reconcile cash registers…”

The committee also did not give a 100 percent answer to the question of whether the money was actually available. Sen. Tom Young Jr. asked Loftis about the $1.8 billion, “Is your office sure it exists?” Loftis’ response: “We believe it does.” Grooms jumps him on this one case at least partially and states: “We believe that it is real money, but we have not been able to prove that it is real money.” So it is no longer just unclear where the money comes from. It is also unclear whether it actually exists.

Another aspect that could be related to the discovery of money dates back to 2023, as the AP news agency reports. The auditor in charge, Richard Eckstrom, had to resign after it became known that a software error was responsible for the double booking of some state funds and it had to be admitted that South Carolina had $3.5 billion (around €3.2 billion) less than expected. The supposed current surplus of 1.8 billion dollars could therefore again be the result of technical difficulties in financial accounting from the past. If that were the case, there would currently be nothing to distribute, but the responsibility could be shifted either to the software or to the corner power, who is no longer responsible.

In any case, it can be considered certain that the discussion about the apparent lucky find will continue. State Treasurer Loftis’ words in the committee: “If I don’t misjudge this, it’s far from over.”

Sources:  “NYT” (paid content), “Spiegel”, AP