Note: The following is an opinion-editorial item written by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White and provided by the State Auditor’s office.
By Shad White
This July will mark four years since I took over as your State Auditor. As you may know, my job is to identify stolen or misspent taxpayer dollars and then get that money back for you. During the last four years, we’ve issued the largest demand in the history of the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor. We’ve uncovered the largest public embezzlement case in the state’s history. The defendants in our cases have been sentenced to nearly 300 years of prison time, collectively. The state obtained the largest civil settlement ($55 million) ever resulting from a State Auditor investigation.
We’re particularly proud of that last one, especially considering that settlement alone was more than the entire budget of my office over the last four years.
In short, we’ve been working hard for you. And we’re getting results. We’ve recovered millions of your money during my tenure.
The credit for all this, of course, goes to the 135 men and women of the Office of the State Auditor. My role is to pick the team, get them the resources they need, and then tell them to go do their jobs regardless of who is stealing. I send that message loud and clear every day: we will uncover wrongdoing regardless of whether the perpetrator is powerful or not, rich or poor, a Republican or a Democrat, famous or not, and regardless of race, creed, or background. The law is the law, and we will enforce it—and we don’t care whose feathers it ruffles.
As proud as we are of the accomplishments of the last few years, we’re not done. Going forward, we’re going to make better use of technology to identify more fraud than ever before. We have a new fellowship program to recruit top auditing talent from our Mississippi universities. And we’re going to launch new projects to show what big problems—like brain drain—cost you, the taxpayer.
Whether it’s our past studies on education administrative waste, our criminal investigations, or anything else we’ve done, you’ve probably seen a pattern: I’m not afraid of work. One thing I’ve noticed is that people who’ve spent 20 or 30 years in government often like talking about an issue. I’m not content to talk. We’re going to get something done. My father and grandfather were oilfield pumpers, and working summers with them—hauling oil hoses around in the Mississippi sun—let me know how hard people work to earn a living. My goal is to work as hard protecting your money as you worked to earn it.
I hope you’ve also seen that I’m grateful for this job because it gives me the chance to serve. That’s what these statewide elected jobs are about—service. Some folks get into this business for all the little perks they get along the way. For me, I serve here and in the military because serving you provides meaning and fulfillment.
In other words, it’s been the honor of my life to work for you these last four years. It’s hard to believe four years have flown by so quickly. I’m committed to continuing to do this job.
Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi