Did you read Geoff Pender’s terrific column “Take some aspirin before searching Transparency Mississippi website” in the Clarion-Ledger? If transparency in government spending matters to you, this is a must read.
Pender pointed to nontransparent disclosures on the transparency site by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, then said, “Apparently, they don’t feel like telling the public squat about their travel. So they don’t.”
Then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant was a champion for passage of the 2008 law creating www.transparency.mississippi.gov, noted Pender.
Now Bryant is governor, but agencies under him are callously subverting transparency in government spending.
Oh, Pender outed several subverters, including Superintendent of Education Carey Wright and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, but they aren’t under Bryant’s authority like Medicaid and the Department of Banking and Consumer Affairs.
The main culprit targeted by Pender was state Medicaid Director Dr. David Dzielak. Pender wrote: “When Dzielak travels out of state, and he does so frequently, he lists the destination as ‘out of state travel.’ He lists the title of the meeting or seminar as ‘office of executive services’ whatever the heck that means. He lists the meeting purpose for all his trips as ‘Any out of state meetings and/or activities pertaining to the office of executive services.”
“Why thank you for sharing, Dr. Dzielak,” exclaimed Pender, who added, “most in Dzielak’s agency appear to follow his lead.”
This isn’t Dzielak’s only variance from open government standards that Gov. Bryant has championed.
Following the disclosure of corruption in contracts issued by the Department of Corrections, Bryant called for strict standards and transparency in government contracting and signed major improvements pushed by Rep. Jerry Turner. One key change was revamping the Personal Service Contract Review Board to provide more independent and professional oversight of government contracts.
In late June, Dzielak prematurely signed a protested $2 billion Medicaid contract, skipping the contract review process altogether. The awarding of Medicaid’s MississippiCAN managed care contract is now the subject of a lawsuit and legislator protests
“DOM’s (Department of Medicaid’s) actions, first in failing to adhere to the terms of the RFP, and then in moving forward to implement its awards despite the pending protests, violate numerous mandatory statutory and regulatory requirements, and constitute a fundamental departure from the fair and unbiased administration of the procurement process for the MississippiCAN program, which again, is one of, if not the largest, public procurements in the State’s history,” the complaint stated.
Various news reports said many legislators question Medicaid’s rush to execute the contract without review.
Intriguingly, Medicaid’s website highlights its commitment to “fair and equitable” contracting and states it will evaluate proposals in accordance with “provisions of the State Personal Service Contract Review Board.” PSCRB guidelines show Medicaid subject to its purview. However, a Medicaid attorney said insurance contracts do require review by the board. There is no such exception in the statute establishing the PSCRB.
“It should have gone before the review board,” said Rep. Turner.
Do the governor’s appointees not give a squat about his standards? Perhaps the governor should sit Dzielak and other subverters down and find out why.
Bill Crawford is syndicated columnist from Meridian.