Dining on your dime: Government eats well

JACKSON (MCT) — As the public — and the economy — demands more frugality and accountability from government, one expense that costs Mississippi taxpayers millions a year appears to have gotten little attention or trimming.

Food.

State agencies from the governor’s office on down hold luncheons, dinners and seminars and pick up the food tab. The total costs are difficult to divine from state records, but the “food for business meetings” labeled payments alone from fiscal 2004 to ‘11 totaled about $13 million. The “food for persons” category would appear to challenge that total, but its expenditures are mingled with nearly $280 million of food purchases that include hospitals and other programs that serve masses. And other food expenses — many millions — are paid as per diems and reimbursement to individual employees or credit cards.

Until recently, it would have been nearly impossible for the public, media, watchdog groups or even state lawmakers to scrutinize any state agency spending on food or other specifics. But some recent “sunshine” laws passed by the Legislature, and the work of the nonprofit Mississippi Center for Public Policy, are providing online access to state spending details in relatively searchable formats.

Sun Herald via Natchez Democrat

10/3/11