JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - On the job since March, the Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Bob Anderson, says the agency was in a bad place.
He has spent the last seven months working to restore trust, build employee morale and conduct an audit to account for millions of dollars in misspent TANF money meant for needy families in Mississippi.
Six people have been indicted in the largest embezzlement and fraud scheme in state history. They include the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services John Davis.
The group accused of stealing millions of public funds from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF.
In March, Governor Tate Reeves names Bob Anderson to head the agency. His first priority is restoring the trust of state taxpayers.
“When I got here I knew that this agency was in a bad place because of what had happened in the past and we needed a fresh start," Anderson said.
Operation Restore Trust was one of the first steps.
Anderson said, “And it was focused on the three principles of integrity, of compliance and moving this agency towards excellence.”
Anderson has hired a Compliance Officer who is leaving no stone unturned.
“Almost top to bottom system review of the whole agency. Looking at our standard operating procedures, creating them where a lot of our divisions didn’t have standard operating procedures, and then making sure that all of our programmatic areas are aware of their legal requirements and that they are following those," Anderson explained.
The Executive Director has also ordered a forensic audit. MDHS has just completed drafting language and negotiations to begin the process that will take at least a year.
Anderson said, “digging into literally every TANF transaction from January 01, 2016 through December 31, 2019. And our best estimate is that maybe as many as 100,000 transactions.”
Anderson says while they don’t believe the embezzled amount will be as high as $94 million, the amount that the State Auditor’s office has found so far, he says the audit will detail every transaction.
“I have been committed to letting the chips fall where they may with that forensic audit and we’re prepared to go and talk with HHS, and the Administration for Children and Families and say okay let’s go forward from here. Here is the unallowed number and what do we do to make it right.”
Anderson says transparency is crucial in restoring public trust in the work DHS does for the people of Mississippi.