State Auditor Shad White talks about $5M recovered from private prison company
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - State Auditor Shad White says his office’s recent recovery of $5.125 million from a private prison company is one of the largest civil recoveries in Mississippi history.
White joined WLOX’s David Elliott for a lengthy discussion about the case. He said Management & Training Corporation (MTC) was not living up to its contract with the state of Mississippi.
“A couple years ago, we started investigating the timesheets of this private prison company because they were under a contract with the state to provide a certain number of prison guards for every prisoner that’s in one of the prisons they were managing for the state. And as we looked at these timesheets and looked at whether or not they were providing those guards, we started to realize that they were not providing the needed guards, but were charging the state as if they were. And so we once we built the basis for that allegation, once we built up the evidence, we issued a demand to them,” White explained.
The state auditor’s findings from the November investigation have been turned over to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, which makes decisions on suing or prosecuting cases.
“We will continue investigating the MTC matter to ensure the amount the company remitted is the full amount they owe the people,” White said. “Every penny must be accounted for.”
White also took time to update us on the largest public fraud case in Mississippi history, the welfare fraud scandal. This week marked one year since John Davis, the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty for his role in the fraud.
A year later, the welfare scandal involving messages between Brett Favre and former Governor Phil Bryant still hangs like a dark cloud over the state. Neither Favre nor Bryant have been charged with any crime, and White reminded the public that’s not his decision.
“Prosecutors are debating who else they might charge in that whole scheme and that is their call. They get to make that decision,” White said. “While they’re making those deliberations, we need to reflect on how this happened and different safeguards we could put in place to keep it from happening again - both here in Mississippi or keep it from happening in another state, too. Because I do think the welfare system, as it’s set up in the U.S., is vulnerable to this kind of fraud.”
White feels so strongly about this call for stronger safeguards, he shared the message with members of Congress earlier this year.
At that time he proposed the federal Department of Health and Human Services enact the following reforms to strengthen oversight and accountability:
- Require state agency heads to sign statements under penalty of perjury about the number of people served by welfare,
- Punish state agencies that fail to properly monitor nonprofits receiving welfare grants,
- Report improper spending to Congress,
- Implement stricter eligibility criteria for TANF funds so that only the truly needy are eligible.
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