OTHER OPINION: Get to the hard facts of Kemper County plant

By Sun Herald, Biloxi-Gulfport

The unfolding story about Mississippi Power Company’s reporting of cost overruns at the company’s multibillion-dollar power plant in Kemper County to the Mississippi Public Service Commission is both sobering and serious.
It is imperative to the public interest that a full accounting of what happened, who knew about it and when be disclosed quickly and completely.
What is known is the departure of the company’s CEO, Ed Day, occurred in a sudden and stunning fashion last week. We also learned the vice president in charge of the Kemper project abruptly left the company’s employment two week earlier.
What is further known is the Southern Company, parent to Mississippi Power, has dispatched its top lawyer to take charge of its Mississippi operations – and the PSC matter received more than passing attention at the Southern Company’s shareholders meeting last week.
We also know the cost of the Kemper County project, as reported in Southern Company’s 2012 financials, was inaccurate and had to be restated (an excerpt of which is printed below).
Company officials also claim to have “forgotten” to disclose those same overruns, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, to the PSC for more than a year, after being asked repeatedly for this vital information, according to PSC Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz.
Simple and understandable facts are in order here, and Commissioner Bentz has assured the public that the PSC investigation will get at those facts thoroughly.
At last week’s shareholders meeting, Thomas Fanning, the CEO of the Southern Company, said writing off more than half a billion dollars in cost overruns at the Kemper County power plant was “a bitter pill for us to swallow, but it was appropriate. It shows, I think, appropriate corporate responsibility in this issue.”
Full disclosure of the status of the Kemper project would also be an appropriate act of corporate responsibility.