Both sides in DPS debate claim vindication by audit

An audit of the state Department of Public Safety released today says the agency has problems keeping paperwork and financial reports in order and its comptroller doesn’t appear up to running such a large agency.

But the review by State Auditor Stacey Pickering says the agency appears to be in general compliance with state laws and regulations and he found no misspending. It recommends training up the comptroller and hiring more accountants.

Both sides in the DPS debate were calling it vindication on Wednesday.
DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz had requested the audit, after lawmakers questioned the agency’s management and spending in budget hearings in the fall.

“In an effort toward transparency, we wanted an audit to review our spending practices,” Santa Cruz said. “We were confident we were adhering to proper procedures and were not afraid of scrutiny. The audit shows we have been and are compliant.”

The audit is likely to become a factor in ongoing debate over DPS funding between Gov. Phil Bryant and GOP legislative leaders. Particularly the issue has added to friction between Bryant and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who has questioned DPS’s management and spending.

Bryant wants to increase funding to DPS, including $7 million for a Highway Patrol trooper school, equipment and salaries to put 60 more officers on roadways. DPS says it’s short about 100 troopers, with many more eligible to retire, and some counties are going without trooper coverage on highways.

Reeves said the agency appears to have management and spending problems, and questioned whether money allocated by lawmakers is going to administration and other expenses instead of troopers and cars. House Speaker Philip Gunn has also questioned DPS spending and management.

Clarion Ledger
1/16/14