By Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport
Over the weekend, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ office issued a press release in which Reeves congratulated legislators for “a conservative budget that adequately funds state agencies.”
But what guarantee does he or anyone in Mississippi have that all those billions of dollars will be spent in an outstanding manner?
There is no such guarantee because Mississippi does not require every agency of state government to be audited on an annual basis. Years can go by before there is any accounting of millions of dollars.
Yet there is no indication anyone at the Capitol is really ready to change that.
Where is the outrage, or even concern, on the part of public officials over the shocking lack of oversight annual audits would help provide?
It is going to change. The day is coming when elected and appointed officials will be held accountable year in and year out for how they dispose of the money entrusted to them.
Had the Department of Marine Resources not gone more than 10 years without an audit, could it have gone so astray that it is now under investigation by both the state and federal government?
State Auditor Stacey Pickering says he does not have the resources to audit every dollar spent by every agency every year. He says keeping tabs on the big budget items – such as the state Department of Transportation – is an annual necessity.
But smaller agencies – such as the DMR, which has a budget of less than $20 million a year, but handles much more in federal money – must be relegated to being audited on a rotating basis.
That is not good enough.
Every city and county in Mississippi must pay for its own annual audit. Each and every public agency in Mississippi should be required to assume no less a degree of financial responsibility and accountability.
It is as simple as “trust, but verify.”