Friday, March 22, 2019

Shad White: Mississippi's Corruption Problem and What We Can Do About it.

“Is Mississippi the most corrupt state in the country?”


It’s one of the most common questions I’m asked as your State Auditor.

Most folks who ask have read a ranking or article based on a study at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The study found Mississippi has one of the highest numbers of convictions for public corruption in federal courts, per capita.

That ranking, of course, focuses on convictions, and we certainly would prefer to actually be convicting corrupt officials rather than letting them run free. A measure of the number of corrupt acts, whether caught or not, would be preferable, but I’ve never seen such a study, and it probably would be impossible.

So is there something to learn from the information we do have, that Mississippi seems to need to convict more people per capita for public corruption than other states? Does that suggest we’re more corrupt?

The short answer—based on my time in office, my review of our cases, and discussions with law enforcement from around the country—is “yes,” potentially.

Mississippi is probably more corrupt, per capita, than your average state, but it’s not because there’s something special in the water. We have more corruption because of two concepts: need and opportunity.

The importance of need and opportunity in white-collar crime was described in a device called the Fraud Triangle. The Fraud Triangle was invented by a professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and it suggests that, if we want to predict where we’ll find theft of public funds, we look for suspects who have 1) the need for money, 2) the opportunity to steal that money, and 3) the capacity to rationalize the theft.

Mississippi has a lot of the first two parts of the triangle. We live in a poor state where financial pressure on families is high. That can create the need to steal.

We also live in a state with hundreds of small, tucked-away government entities: rural local governments; small state boards and commissions; small schools in far-flung places; obscure public boards, like drainage districts; etc. And being small and hidden creates the opportunity.

Take, for example, our case last year involving the theft of nearly $1 million from a community college in the Delta. Some were surprised that that sort of theft happened at a community college instead of one of our bigger universities. After all, the big universities have more money flowing through them.

Theft is harder at a university, though, because there is more oversight—more lawyers, accountants, and auditors running around—to be sure the rules are followed. There are fewer trained eyeballs looking at financial transactions in small institutions.

Statistics from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners confirms the dangers of small government offices. Fraud is more common in small offices and actually costs more per case. Worldwide, 31% of fraud happens at the local government level compared to 26% at the state/province level. The median loss per instance of fraud in small offices (less than 100 employees) is $200,000. The median loss at places with more than 100 employees is actually smaller, $104,000.

How then can we address the corruption problem in Mississippi? We can’t change the fact that we’re a rural state. And waiting for poverty to abate is not an option either.

Our only option is to make the best of the situation, knowing that we are more vulnerable to public integrity problems than average.

Transparency is the first and best preventative measure. We need vigorous enforcement of our public records and open meetings laws.

Personnel to prevent theft is also important. For instance, while all our universities have internal auditors, those auditors are hard to find at our fifteen community colleges. They should have them.

Also, all small government offices should have policies requiring separation of duties (rules that say no one person does too many of the tasks involving the handling of money).

As for our small state boards and commissions, many should have their back office functions consolidated, both to save money and to bring those functions under an experienced group of procurement officers and auditors.

Finally, the onus is on me to do my job well and to constantly send the message that I have zero tolerance for stealing public money. Such a message discourages anyone who reads a newspaper from attempting embezzlement of taxpayer dollars in the first place.

Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi.

20 comments:

Anon-E-Mouse said...

No. We aren’t the most corrupt. We are simply the most inept at being corrupt. (Seeing as how or people seemed to be sent to prison ore than others)

Anonymous said...

Prosecution! Prosecution! Prosecution!

and that little perk known as PERS.

Simply allow the clawback of any stolen monies out of the individuals PERS account and expulsion from the PERS program.

That'll stop it.

Anonymous said...

Shad is such a breath of fresh air amongst those that call themselves "Republicans" in Mississippi. He actually acknowledges that we have a problem, while Huey,Dewey, and Louie (aka the 3 Stooges) just say that all is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

As it stands right now White is an appointed official and that's all fine and good. He appears to want to do what hasn't been getting done by all prior state auditors. If he is elected, lets see if he continues to do what should be done. If he does, then we can say the young man is fresh air.

Anonymous said...

2:45, he's now running unopposed from either party, so he is technically (re) elected. Given that no one filed to run against him says a lot in this state.

Anonymous said...

March 22 @ 2:45 pm
"If he is elected..."

You do realize Shad is unopposed in the upcoming election... write-in votes do not count unless a candidate dies after qualifying and being placed on the ballot.

He will be our next "elected" state auditor and he has done a damn fine job since being appointed. That young man has balls and is leading the charge on public corruption, not making back room deals with those that would cast a ballot for him. He makes some excellent points with regard to transparency being key(heyooooo MDOC!). Keep doing you Shad! We support your efforts!

Cynical Sam said...

He is doing a fantastic job. If he focuses much higher up the ladder he may need a security detail.

You go Mr. Shad!

Anonymous said...

Agree with previous comments that Mr. White is doing a bang-up job as State Auditor.
How refreshing. Too bad there are not more like him in the upper reaches of State (and local, and Federal) government.

Keep up the great work Mr. White.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time the City of Jackson, Jackson Public School District or Hinds County and its Supervisors been thoroughly audited?

Anonymous said...

Stop all these silly, nonsensical posts. All we need right now is for him to come up to Madison County. The county and Canton - the city. Take them one at a time. If your investigation takes a year, so be it. It will result in at least twenty going to prison.

Anonymous said...

Shad if you take down CMU and the Blackmon’s you will get my vote! All crooks.

Anonymous said...

Shad, your argument is " we are corrupt because we are poor and money is an irresistible temptation."
Laws exist to prevent humans from giving in to temptation, but it should be obvious to you that being " poor" doesn't mean one lacks moral backbone. Please read the timber case on this site.
Mississippi lacks laws common elsewhere to reduce corruption.
Too many of our boards and agencies lack the oversight capability needed. People who deal in government contract law have recommended reforms to various agencies for decades and get no where.
The very notion of an " advocacy board" is ridiculous. That may be why the Junior and Community colleges had a problem. An oversight board could catch anomalies.
I strongly suggest all politicians in MS start looking at their systems from top to bottom to look for reforms that will make corruption harder. Now , we are like a business that leaves the cash drawer unlocked.

Anonymous said...

IN THE 10TH PARAGRAPH, white mentions"hundreds of small tucked away government entities". here he gets it right. most all of these "entities " are boards and administrative agencies created by the legislature so politicians can hand out gold brick do nothing jobs with big salaries to their cronies. a CLASSIC example is the ms state department of marine resources. this is an administrative agency created by the legislature to "manage" our all of 40 miles of marine coastland. that is something that should be done by the dept of natural resources......but,......noooooo. tell me , about 3 years ago how many millions did the appointed head of this department of marine resources steal???? a couple of million ? some of you experts out there...... tell me... just how many of these little "entities" exist? i dont think anybody knows.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi is simply a prisoner of it's own sordid history. In Mississippi's old plantation based economy and political system every old "colonel" or "captain" could have a government position or title. Just look at "justice court'. For years any grade school educated white man could be a "Judge" and handle all the fees and fines he had the energy to generate. Nobody said anything. Boards, commissions, etc., same thing. 82 bloated county governments and even more school districts. The antiquated system remains, but now as Black people try to access the same gravy train, there will finally be some serious scrutiny. It all depends on who benefits. The loopholes are closing.

Anonymous said...

When you have Supreme Court justices who sit on boards for a decade (providing political cover for community colleges and universities) - let's say, call it the IHL - who doles out hundreds of millions with zero oversight - not to mention the billions in federal student aid that's knowingly chiseled - Mississippi is without question the most corrupt. Speak up and it's economic assassination (lose your job)....RICO anyone? So EVERYONE's in on the scams, and covers for one another (Can I trust ya?) until a gunslinger comes along - lines them up, and exposes every last one of them. Take em' down Shad - we're still waiting. You will in fact need a security detail if you're serious.....or you'll bail out just like the sniveling POS lying minister that you succeeded when things get hot. It's time. Make it happen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 9:18. If he busts all the corruption around CMU, then I’ll vote for Shad and that little egghead can write all this little term papers he wants. Write a term paper then bust some crooks. On and on until they are all gone.

Anonymous said...

Dipwads like 7:40 are the ones who frustrate ME. He's the jerk who complained that Pickering was a do-nothing and, now that we have an effective auditor/investigator in the job, he rattles on about term papers in pejorative terms. Oh, he admonished Chad to 'bust some crooks'. What the hell does 7:40 think he's been reading about on this blog for the past year?

Sounds like an accountant stuck in a cubicle somewhere in Pearl.

Anonymous said...

Y'all can bust people all day but if you don't change the system that allowed the crime to happen, it won't matter. We've had several auditors and attorney generals and governors who brought down some corrupt people. But, you've got to create controls and clear chains of responsibility for oversight in the laws to stop it. Our legislators and agency heads are to blame.

Anonymous said...

11:15 - Right on Bro! Sorta like putting bars on windows have stopped thugs from robbing Mr. Patel. And our drugs laws have brought a screeching halt to the drug trade. 'Controls and responsibility' won't affect those involved in graft, corruption and theft in the least.

But, I'll stand by while you provide your list of what should be put in place that would preclude our need for a state auditor. Go.

Anonymous said...

Damn skippy and proud of it! Keep it real Mississippi

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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