Lawmakers to discuss ad contracts

Members of the House Ways and Means committee will meet Wednesday to talk about topics that will probably be included in an upcoming special session. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. in Room 201 at the Capitol.

Partisan bickering over the contracts has stalled the reauthorization of a state agency that helps unemployed Mississippians. The state Department of Employment Security is in danger of closing if it is not reauthorized by June 30.

The legislative watchdog committee PEER found that state agencies have spent millions of dollars to advertise services, sometimes using no-bid contracts and politically connected companies in a process that leaves little room for accountability.

PEER’s report, issued in October, is touted by Democrats upset that taxpayer money is used to advertise on talk radio shows that criticize members of their party.

Republicans are frustrated that Democrats tied oversight provisions to a bill that would allow MDES to stay open.

It cost taxpayers $14 million in 2006 to advertise state services such as Medicaid benefits, health services or tourism programs, a PEER committee found.

But there are no state laws or regulations that require agencies to determine whether an advertising need exists before contracting with media outlets, the committee’s report said.

Clarion Ledger
5/9/8