DMR advertising for firm to study agency financing, structure

calee@sunherald.comApril 19, 2013 

BILOXI -- The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is advertising for an accounting firm to examine the troubled agency's finances, structure, staffing, work flow and government program compliance.

Proposals are due by 10 a.m. Monday, according to the advertisement, which recently ran in the Sun Herald. Any resulting contract would pay an unspecified hourly rate for work that could begin right away and run through June 30, with options for renewal.

Newly-appointed DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller requested the proposals. When he was named director earlier this month, Miller said he would initiate a comprehensive 60-day review of the agency's spending practices and structure and the firms hired will help with the financial part of that.

"I would like for people to know I intend to be very deliberate and thorough," Miller said. "I intend to bring in credible, third-party professionals -- CPAs -- to help us get it right and to make sure that we've got the strongest internal structure and controls in place so that everybody can be confident of our agency moving forward."

Gov. Phil Bryant selected Miller to head DMR after previous director Bill Walker was fired in January amid ongoing state and federal investigations. The State Auditor's Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation are both investigating the agency's management under Walker, who had headed DMR since 2002. Walker has denied wrongdoing.

As part of the 60-day review, the new director has also had individual meetings with about 70 of the agency's 146 employees and contract workers. Miller is in the process of determining whether employees are in the proper jobs at the agency and that job descriptions are correct, among other issues.

DMR requirements for the CPA work include experience in financial analysis of public funding and expenditures, organization and staffing of state agencies, state and federal program, communications, public outreach campaigns and other skills.

"We are not required to advertise for the services of an accounting firm," DMR spokeswoman Susan Perkins said. "That service is exempt from the purview of the Personal Service Contract Review Board, but we have chosen to advertise and compete these services to increase transparency."

Michael Newsom, Sun Herald political editor, contributed to this report.

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