State Auditor Shad White talks protecting taxpayer dollars with Natchez Rotarians

Published 11:47 am Friday, June 21, 2024

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NATCHEZ — State Auditor Shad White talked service and protecting taxpayers dollars during a meeting with members of the Natchez Rotary Club this week.

White was appointed to the position of state auditor in July 2018 by then-Gov. Phil Bryant. He was elected without opposition in 2023 and won re-election in 2023 by 59 percent of the vote.

White talked about growing up in Jones County and being instilled with the values taught him by his hardworking father, an oilfield pumper, and his mother, a school teacher.

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“One night a week, my father would come home and clean up and go across town to City Hall, where he served as an alderman,” White said. “From a really early age, he taught me the importance of service, that regardless of what you do in your life, everybody has something they are responsible for giving back.”

He said though no longer an alderman, his father, Charles White, still serves.

“Now he is the mayor, and he believes he’s president of the United States. He calls himself the Donald Trump of Jones County, and his old Chevy is called Air Force One,” White said.

White said the mission of the state auditor’s office is a simple one.

“I run a team of 130 people in Jackson, and our mission is to make sure that taxpayer money is spent the way the law requires. It is pretty simple, but it gets complicated because we have to do routine audits to make sure that happens. We do criminal investigations. We do all sorts of work to make sure your taxpayer money is being spent in the way it is supposed to be spent,” he said.

White discussed the welfare scandal, the most well-known and far-reaching investigation his office has conducted since taking office.

“In early 2020, my team had done an investigation and a big audit and unfortunately discovered that tens of millions of dollars in welfare money had been misspent. Welfare money had gone to things like advertising at a college bowl game out of state. I don’t know how many welfare recipients were at that bowl game that day, but that’s not an allowable use of welfare money,” White said.

He said some people committed fraud to “get their hands on that money.”

“Fast forward four years to today, six folks have pleaded guilty and are going to prison very likely for their role in that,” White said.

Not everyone was happy about the investigation and arrests, as evidenced by a woman at his church who approached him after a service and told him he ought to be ashamed of himself.

“She knew one of the people who had been arrested,” White said.

“I went back to my house that morning and thought about this. That’s the point of this job. It’s not easy to do this thing, but it’s important. Fast forward four years, those people have pleaded guilty and are likely to go to prison. And I have not received an apology note from that woman. But that is sort of the point. Even when you don’t get the apology, it is important to be a state auditor and to do it consistently every single time.”

White said he learned early on the importance of saving money and being efficient and that he uses those lessons from his childhood in his job as state auditor.

“One of the things we have focused on is identifying waste and inefficiency in state government,” he said.

HIs office conducted a study of the amount of money Mississippi Medicaid recipients said they made to Medicaid officials, and how much they reported making on their state income tax returns.

“Between five and seven percent of Medicaid recipients in Mississippi make too much money to be on Medicaid. That may not seem a lot, but you have to remember Medicaid is the largest federal program operated in Mississippi. That means each year between $60 million and $144 million of your money is going to pay for Medicaid for people who are not eligible to be on the program.

“We are doing these audits because we have to stand up for taxpayers and make sure their money goes where it is supposed to. We are trying to make sure poor people are the only people on Medicaid in Mississippi,” White said.

Rotarian Sim Mosby held a fundraiser for White in Natchez later Tuesday night.

“Right now I’m not thinking about running for any other position. We just began our term and have a lot of work to do. Time will tell what is ahead,” White said.