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Auditor White paying Boston firm $2 million to find waste in state government

Auditor Shad White is paying a Massachusetts-based consulting group $2 million in public money with a directive to find at least $250 million in waste in state agencies.

White believes the contract with Boston Consulting Group “will be the most important project our team completes during his tenure as state auditor,” said auditor’s office spokesman Jacob Walters in response to questions from Mississippi Today. “It will help guarantee that as much taxpayer money as possible goes to the things that matter to Mississippians — roads, bridges, teacher salaries, etc. — and not waste.”

Walters said, “The final results of the analysis, along with recommendations on how to save tens of millions of dollars, will be released soon.”

White went on social media recently to promote the $2 million contract, saying “There’s simply too much fat in state government, and it was time to take a chainsaw to it.”

Boston Consulting Group bills itself “as a global consulting firm that partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities.”

Walters said the international firm had done similar analyses for other states. He cited Texas and North Carolina.

The Mississippi contract said the work paper compiled by Boston Consulting “must project a reduction of expenses or savings … of at least $250 million.” Walters said the $250 million was identified as the amount of savings “to give BCG a goal of how much in savings to find.”

There have been multiple initiatives in the past aimed at weeding out waste and inefficiency in Mississippi state government. Political leaders ranging from then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to former House Speaker Philip Gunn have bragged of their efforts to eliminate waste and cut government spending. In the 1990s, former Lt. Gov. Eddie Briggs led the first effort to develop “performance-based budgeting” for the state to find and eliminate waste.

Those efforts have had varying degrees of success. During the administration of former Gov. Phil Bryant about $77 million in welfare funds designed to aid the state’s poorest citizens was spent on volleyball courts, vehicles and homes for those with political ties instead of the state’s poorest people.

Money was not appropriated by the Legislature for White to pay for the Boston Consulting Group study. But the agency has banked money that it receives from fees for performing its functions.

Walters cited 7-7-211 of the Mississippi code as giving White the authority to spend the money to enter into the contract.

“The team here are experts in what is and is not an allowable use of taxpayer funds,” Walters said.

He said state law clearly gives White the authority to investigate the financial affairs of all state agencies when “deemed necessary.”

Boston Consulting Group was selected from multiple firms that submitted proposals for the contract by “the technical staff” in the Auditor’s office, not by White, Walters said. Boston Consulting’s web page includes a section touting its work for clients on diversity, equity and inclusion goals. On social media and in official statements from White, he has been critical of DEI agendas.

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