Thursday, January 16, 2014

Feb. 2013: Feds say DPS diverted millions in anti-DUI funds for other purposes.

The U.S. Inspector General slammed the Mississippi Department of Public Safety for misspending $7.1 million in safety grants from 2007 to 2010 in a little-noticed report issued in Feburary 2013.   Funds intended to be used for DUI programs were instead used to support other activities in violation of federal law.  The abuse was so bad that the IG said only 5% of the citations issued under the program were for DUI offenses.  JJ made repeated attempts to contact DPS officials for comment.  The efforts were unsuccessful.

Mississippi received $20.8 million in highway safety grants from the federal government from 2007 to 2010. The state also transferred $36.3 million from federal-aid highway construction funds to its highway safety program.  Section 154 of the US Code governs alcohol-impaired driving programs.

The report states:

In January 2011, NHTSA designated Mississippi’s highway safety program as “high risk” because of deficiencies in its management of Federal funds and lack of conformance with Federal grant terms and conditions. Mississippi is the only State in the nation with a high-risk designation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked the IG to audit the state's use of federal highway safety grants. The audit took place between June 2011 and November 2012. DPS apparently did not spend the money as required by federal law. The feds did not sugar-coat their findings as the report states:

MOHS (Mississippi Office of Highway Safety) did not administer Section 154 alcohol-impaired driving transfer funds in accordance with Federal requirements. MOHS inappropriately entered into grant agreements with State and local law enforcement agencies, allowing them to conduct ineligible general law enforcement activities instead of focusing on alcohol-impaired driving enforcement, as required by Section 154. As a result, ineligible enforcement activities occurred and MOHS made improper payments to its sub-grantees.....
 Specifically, Mississippi did not exclusively use Section 154 funds for alcohol-impaired driving countermeasures or enforcement of drinking and driving laws―such as concentrating on the enforcement of violations of the State’s driving under the influence (DUI) statute. Instead, MOHS inappropriately entered into grant agreements with State and local law enforcement agencies that permitted them to use Section 154 funds to conduct general law enforcement activities, such as issuing citations for speeding and seat belt violations. Because of these inappropriate agreements and the ineligible general traffic enforcement, MOHS made improper payments to the law enforcement agencies and subsequently requested reimbursement for these payments from NHTSA.

The audit states MOHS paid reimbursement claims to "state and local law enforcement officers' wages " for duties that were not covered by Section 154.  The IG examined the records of 127 police officers and found 73% did not issue any DUI citations.  The officers were funded by Section 154 funds.  The IG determined only 5% of the citations they issued (147 of 2,926) were for DUI offenses.  The feds paid for a DUI citation to be issued every 28.6 enforcement hours supported by Section 154 funds (p.6). 

The IG also said MOHS eerily said:

MOHS did not have sufficient controls16 to effectively manage Federal highway safety grants, including Section 154 transfer funds. We identified financial control weaknesses at MOHS that increase the risk of improper payments, including (1) lack of accounting controls and processes to prepare Federal reimbursement vouchers, (2) inadequate documentation of financial transactions, and (3) improper segregation of duties and lack of supervisory review.

Eerily? That word is used because the State Auditor used the same language in describing how money is handled at DPS in a limited performance audit of the agency that was released yesterday. The report and executive summary are posted below.  JJ filed a public records request at DPS to discover whether the NHTSA will require the agency to repay any federal funds. Link to IG website

Kingfish note: Apologies for only discovering this report last week. The report was issued a year ago and received no mention in the media. 


Anonymous said...

I can't believe Gov. Bryant has not made a change at DPS. It is obvious that he thinks all law enforcement is untouchable. Odd for a former State Auditor to let one of his agencies run wild like this.

Anonymous said...

Kingfish note: Apologies for only discovering this report last week. The report was issued a year ago and received no mention in the media.

Because the media moochers won't report it until after it has been reported here at JJ.

BUT your readers know the score and your audience grows every day.

Anonymous said...

Smells like retirement to me for some people at the top of that money tree. I hear the Coast calling some home.

Anonymous said...

Bryant will "do nothing" to DPS!! After all, "Law Enforcement" is his baby! Being a former Hinds County Deputy Sheriff is his comfort zone and he should have stayed there. I can only hope he knows more about that than state government! Thanks to him, this state is going down the tubes and he is too busy polishing his cowboy boots to notice!

Anonymous said...

Wait, I'm confused: Pickering says "no serious problems," but a year ago DPS got slammed for misuse of federal funds?

Kingfish said...

That was a performance audit. Different review. Example: You have one accountant in one dept. OSA may come in and say you need four and give the reasons why.

I suspect OSA is not responsible for auditing under federal guidelines as well.

Anonymous said...

Ok thanks.

Anonymous said...

"a former deputy sheriff"!! That's his claim for his law enforcement background. But actually he was only an arson investigator, and got that job as a political plum given him at the request of the sheriff's supporter.

And as for being "a former state auditor" - again something he only got for being at the right place at the right time. Fordice made the promise for him to get the position, thinking that Patterson would never resign. When he did (thank you Mike Moore) Fordice lived up to his commitment - something he forever regretted.

Don't expect him to do anything brave like replacing the current 'leadership' at DPS.

Anonymous said...

The report came out under the current DPS administration, however if you read the report, the issues reported were from 2007-2010. Santa Cruz was not in office then.

Anonymous said...

2:05 you are 100% correct. Kirk Fordice made the statement that appointing Bryant as state auditor was one of the worst mistakes he made while in the governor's office.

Anonymous said...

True that problems came before Santa Cruz but hopefully the State auditors report shows he is not the man to clean it up. Problem with DPS is that divisions such as Public Safety Planning, Bureau of Narcotics operate very independentantly of DPS and its oversight. The whole organizational structure needs to be revamped and each unit be responsible to an overseeing DPS. Unfortunitely Troopers rule at DPS and if your not one or were not one they really could care less. Santa Cruz fired everyone who was trying to fix issues such as this and put in his people so that the answer was always yes sir. An ex trooper will be put in charge of DPS and may make improvement but only until DPS treats troopers as part of the total organization will this agency be truly first class. Now its troopers and the other sub agenceys are a after thought.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know how much of the millions given were paid out to firms like Frontier as emergency contracts?

'63 Catalina Pontiac Blue In Color said...

Yada yada. The point remains; police agencies in Southern states are above oversight, remain untouchable, stand outside the spotlight of public scrutiny and answer only to themselves.

Those of you over 50 know it's been this way since the middle of the last century. Those of you over 70 know it's been this way virtually forever. Welcome back to Ross Barnett's police state. It's never changed.

Anonymous said...

Can someone point out to me somewhere in the 23 or 49 CFR where the federal defination of an "emergency" contract includes a $1 mil no-bid advertising contract?

USDOT recognizes things such as Hurricane Katrina and/or an immediate threat (like a bridge collapsing) as an "emergency."

I can find nothing in my extensive research that even moderately alludes to any ad campaign being worthy of a $1mil no-bid contract.

Perhaps the USDOT OIG could assist in answering the question.

Anonymous said...

Agencies should have institutionalized policies and procedures that transcend throughout whatever regime is in politically appointed.

Mississippi DPS apparently didn't think about this several decades ago, and they continue to operate as imcompetent oofs. They can't even get it right after an OIG review.

And where is the accountability for the federal agency in charge of the funds? Why are the feds not watching the henhouse more closely for an "at-risk" state agency?

Anonymous said...

KF, just go ahead and tell everyone it's not your fault you just heard about this because Pickering had this and thought he could keep it under raps for Bryant and DPS. There are a few of us who know more and will drip drip as we see fit.

Anonymous said...

6:55; Are you by chance eluding to something like a 'policy and procedures manual'? What a concept.

Anonymous said...

6:45 you will not find anything that would identify a marketing/advertising campaign as an emergency for state contract purposes. You might want to look under "Christmas Bonus" or "Airplane Maintenance" to find why this money was passed out to these dear friends.

Anonymous said...

There is simple solution to DPS. Dissolve it. There is absolutely no use for the Uniformed division, Troopers are useless. MBN, MBI (to include the crime scene unit) are useful in criminal investigations. However, law enforcement would not change throughout the state if there were no more uniformed troopers. The state would save money. The archaic idea of Trooper School is the dumbest ever not to mention a unnecessary cost. You have an academy that apparently is able to train all the rest of the LEOs in the state. Somehow the idea exists that troopers are superior. That is a joke. The write tickets and work wrecks; THAT"S IT! Why do they nee to have separate training that is longer than other officers? Throughout the state troopers rarely ever work wrecks that are in their jurisdiction. More often than not its a deputy sheriff that works the wreck. In my opinion, the biggest opponent to counties being able to run radar Is the highway patrol because it takes the only thing they have and would give it to the local agencies.

Anonymous said...

11:53 Seems your hormones are really racing today. Take your pill.

Anonymous said...

@12:15 - they may be, but he's right.

Anonymous said...

11:53 is correct. Local law enforcement are far better trained than troopers and at half the school time. It takes over 20 weeks for a trooper to learn how to work a crash an write a ticket (at which half of them are found not guilty due to poor report, testimony or not even showing up for court) Local law enf are better trained in the above along with investigating other crimes and handling disturbances etc. place that funding to the cities and counties that need it or do lateral transfers Tht would save a lot in taxpayer money and have better officers on the streets.

Anonymous said...

Troopers do the initial training or hazing if you were in college and then never doing any training except firearm each year. There was a law that placed higher educational guidelines but Santa Cruz had it repealed. A high School education is good enough for him. Also wasn't the cheating scandal under his administration.

Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks Troopers only write speeding tickets and work motor vehicle accidents, you are sorely mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Ask for the demand letter DPS received to pay the funds back. This thing is still moving. Keep digging.

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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.

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