Make taxpayers aware of spending
Published 7:00 am Friday, January 8, 2016
According to the county administrator, a $300,000 Fairgrounds construction project in the Fiscal Year 2012 of the Pearl River County Budget, (Book 0152, Page 250), was completed.
When questioned about the project, none of the supervisors or the county engineer knew anything about the project. One indicated that it was not actually one project, but a series of small ones; although he was not sure what those were. Two indicated that it was done before their time, which seems unlikely if it was a 2012 budget item. One said that he did not know, but was trying to find out as there was an audit discrepancy in the same amount ($300,000).
One supervisor said that the money for this project did not come out of the general fund, but was borrowed against a bond issue for paving roads. If the taxpayers voted for a bond issue to pave roads, why is that money borrowed to fund a fairground project, which violates MS code 19-9-101? On Nov. 13, 2012, a complaint was filed with the Office of Mississippi State Auditor requesting an investigation into the misuse of dedicated bond funds. A response from the auditor’s office was never received. Later, additional information was discovered by private citizens. After the complaint was filed, the board was cited with the following discrepancy from the State Auditors Office. Although there isn’t a date on the citation, it’s logical to believe the violation is the result of the request for an investigation.
The letter states: State of Mississippi Audit Exceptions Report Fiscal Year 2014
—Stacey E. Pickering Office of the State Auditor
—Pearl River County Board of Supervisors: (Names omitted by this writer.)
Improper expenditures: $210,474.44.
Status: The Board of Supervisors used bond proceeds inappropriately and when called to their attention by the investigation, the money was replaced so the bond proceeds fund was made whole.
Refer to, http://www.osa.state.ms.us/documents/investigative/inv2014. Pdf pg. 25.
This prompted the following memo from the county administrator requesting an approval to transfer funds, minutes book 165 page 450.
On June 24, 2013, the request states: Board of Supervisors:
Please approve the following funds.
Transfer from Severance Tax Fund to the Fair Ground Construction Fund the sum of $210,474.44. This will restore the fund to the original $500,000. Transfer from the Fair Ground Construction fund the sum of $500,000.00 to the Road Construction Fund.
This will restore the bond proceeds back to the original amount.
Even if the transfer was made, the money was not replaced; it was simply moved from one fund to another. Did the board approve the original transfer from the road fund? In fairness to the board, being unaware of the project, did they blindly approve the spending? If not approved by the board, who controlled and authorized the spending? Only a complete investigation will answer these questions.
This year’s candidates pledged to make taxpayers aware of how their money is spent. To make that pledge a reality instead of an empty campaign promise, the new board must conduct a fair, honest and comprehensive investigation, beginning with the original transfer from the road fund.
Finally, report the entire truth to the taxpayers, including the warts, scars and imperfections it may reveal.
By Jeff H. Smith.