Mississippi editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Jan. 18

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on mounting evidence that Mississippi needs more public accountability:

Public officials have provided more evidence that state government needs a thorough auditing of its finances on an annual basis and of its performance on a regular basis.

Recently, State Auditor Stacey Pickering released a performance audit of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (online at www.osa.ms.gov/documents/performance/DPS_final-01_15_2014.pdf).

In dueling press releases, here’s how the results of that audit were interpreted.

From the Department of Public Safety: “For the first time in the 75-year history of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz requested the state auditor to conduct a multiyear performance audit of the Department of Public Safety. The audit, from fiscal year 2009 to the present, was delivered today and shows DPS has been in compliance with state laws and regulations.

“‘In an effort toward transparency, we wanted an audit to review our spending practices,’ Public Safety Commissioner Santa Cruz said. ‘We were confident we were adhering to proper procedures and were not afraid of scrutiny. The audit shows we have been and are compliant.’”

From Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves: “Today State Auditor Stacey Pickering released the Department of Audit’s findings regarding the Department of Public Safety’s financial management of the more than $100 million in taxpayer funds it spends each fiscal year. The review, which was requested by DPS, found numerous serious shortfalls that confirm complaints lodged against the agency by legislative leaders.

Those are serious differences of opinion.

What got this started and keeps it going is a debate over how the Department of Public Safety operates the highway patrol.

The point here is not to take either side in that debate.

What strikes us is how a state agency with as high a profile as the Department of Public Safety could exist for 75 years without the benefit of a performance audit every quarter of a century or so.

It does undergo a regular financial audit.

Both types of audits would be invaluable resources for legislators as they appropriate the state’s limited resources.

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