Auditor: DHS misspending hurt poorest Mississippi families

Updated: May. 6, 2020 at 6:35 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - A 104-page section of the single audit report for fiscal year 2019 released Monday by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White’s office outlines $94 million of misspending by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

That misspending includes payments to lobbyists, fitness classes for elected officials, contracts to relatives of MDHS staffers and vehicles registered to MDHS leadership.

Even the University of Southern Mississippi and Favre Enterprises were named in the document.

“All of that, when you add it all up you get to a number of $94 million, which is far in excess of what we typically see, to put it mildly,” White said.

According to White, here’s how it happened.

MDHS gave Temporary Assistance for Needy Family dollars, which comes from the federal government, to the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi.

That money was then misspent in multiple ways.

“I think they’re both equally at fault, to be honest to you, and I think they’re both equally at fault because they both, both institutions, signed paperwork saying they understand these rules,” White told WDAM Wednesday.

White said the damage has already been done for the poorest families in the state.

“[It] should have gone to the benefit of folks below 300% of the federal poverty line, and instead it went to folks who were well above the federal poverty line,” White said.

White added the state could also face sanctions such as a cut in its TANF money to MDHS and legislators could be required to cover the loss in funding.

As for the people and institutions that took the money, White believes each individual recipient is going to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

"You have to remember that just because somebody received inappropriate money is not to say they have criminal intentions,” White said.

The federal government will determine exactly how much of the $94 million was misspent.

White wants this to serve as a reminder to people in government.

“There are people out their watching this money, this is not money that can be spent on just anything,” White said.

Southern Miss issued a statement in response to being named in the case.

White also announced Wednesday that his office had received $500,000 from Brett Favre in repayment of TANF money and the remainder would be paid back in installments. White added in a statement that there is currently no evidence indicating that Favre knew that TANF was the source of the money he received.

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