COLUMBIA — The chairman of a Senate committee said Friday that recent testimony by an official in Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration raised more questions than it answered.
A new panel has been asked to do both.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, announced Friday he’s appointed a five-member oversight committee that will look into the massive breach of an S.C. Department of Revenue database.
The cyberattack compromised Social Security numbers for 3.8 million people who had paid state taxes since 1998, thousands of credit and debit card numbers and information from as many as 657,000 S.C. businesses.
Leatherman said in a statement that he decided to convene the panel after a recent Finance Committee hearing in which senators questioned Revenue Department Director James Etter about the breach.
“I don’t think any senator was satisfied with the answers we got,” Leatherman said. “More questions were raised than answers were provided. Mr. Etter first told us he did not know if private information of companies was stolen. When members pressed him, however, and after he checked with his staff, he admitted that corporations with state identification numbers had been breached.”
That admission by Etter, which came nearly three weeks after the state was alerted to the breach, was the first time a Haley administration official had disclosed that businesses also had been affected.
“At the time of the hearing, we had no knowledge of corporations being affected in the breach,” Etter said in a statement Friday. “During the hearing, we learned that corporation information may have been compromised which reflects that this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said senators should ask any questions they have, but the administration believes it will have the answers senators need next week when the governor and other officials update taxpayers.
Leatherman said senators also are concerned by the fact that taxpayers have to sign up for fraud monitoring protection provided by Experian. The state is paying the company $12 million for a year of free credit monitoring and lifetime credit-fraud resolution for taxpayers who sign up.
An attorney from a firm retained by the state to help with the hacking crisis has said the state cannot legally sign up taxpayers for Experian without their approval.
Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, and Sen. William O’Dell, R-Ware Shoals, will serve as co-chairmen of the panel.
Leatherman also appointed Sens. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, and Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins.