Rock throwing by MDOT unproductive, needs to end

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Once again the Mississippi Department of Transportation is about to toss lots of taxpayer money right out the window – and apparently for little reason other than an attempt to save face.

After a beleaguering year, MDOT officials announced Tuesday their plans to hire an outside consulting firm to examine the state agency’s management practices and procedures.

The cost will be $749,000. Although that figure may sound like a huge chunk of change, it’s a drop in the bucket to MDOT, which operates on a $750 million annual budget.

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In the grand scheme of things, the cost seems miniscule, but in fact, it’s the principle that bothers us.

Three months ago, the Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee, a legislative watchdog agency, reviewed MDOT’s practices and found the agency a case study in mismanagement. MDOT officials weren’t happy when the news came out and blamed much of their cost overruns on the Legislature.

MDOT officials said Tuesday that the consulting firm would offer an unbiased view by people who completely understand the intricacies of highway construction. The implication was that PEER committee members just didn’t understand complex highway issues.

The management problems PEER members pointed out are universal ones and transcend the specific type of business discussed. The issue is on the verge of becoming a finger-pointing session.

The bottom line is this: The issues that the PEER committee uncovered can – and should – be solved immediately, without needlessly spending more money.

At some point we hope that MDOT realizes the road ahead is bumpy enough, without throwing rocks in the state’s path.