As Mississippi continues to issue CARES Act funding to aid in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, State Auditor Shad White is promising oversight.
The state received a total of $1.25 billion as a result of the federal stimulus package, which was divvied up by the legislature during the extended 2020 session. In a news release, White provided the details of a five-part plan to prevent fraud as CARES Act funding trickles out to those in need.
- Audit staff identified the state government agencies receiving the money by reading and researching federal and state legislation and surveying state agencies.
- Auditors created a new website, www.osa.ms.gov/covid19, so Mississippians can see how and where the stimulus money is spent. The site is live today.
- Auditors have divided the stimulus spending into four “buckets”: education money; money spent by the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security; money for emergency supplies and healthcare; and the state’s broadband spending. Three private CPA firms will audit three of the buckets of money, and the Auditor’s office will handle one bucket, in addition to the regular work of the office.
- Investigators at the Auditor’s office will handle any criminal allegations of fraud or misspending involving stimulus funds.
- The Technical Assistance Division at the Auditor’s office will answer questions about the proper way to spend stimulus money. The attorneys and CPAs in this division have already begun providing guidance to government officials across the state to ensure the CARES Act money is spent appropriately on the front end.
“With this unprecedented crush of funds comes an opportunity to steal,” said Auditor White. “I have no doubt some will try. Those folks tempted to defraud the taxpayers need to know one thing, though: we are watching.”
Major allocations of the federal funding include over $300 million for small businesses relief, $275 million for broadband expansion and distance learning improvements and nearly $130 million to assist the state’s healthcare system.