GUEST COLUMN: New Award Honors Good, Efficient Government

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2022

By Shad White | Guest Columnist

 

The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor spends a lot of time identifying stolen or misspent money. We do a good job of it, too, because it’s our primary responsibility. In fact, last year we issued the largest demand in the history of the office, we saw the largest civil settlement resulting from an Audit investigation in the history of the office, we’ve recovered millions, and the defendants in our cases have been sent to hundreds of years of prison time. 

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But that work doesn’t give us the chance to pat people on the back when they do a good job. 

For that reason, this year, we have launched a new award. It’s called the Public Innovations and Efficiencies Award — the PIE Award — to recognize those who have been efficient in their use of public funds. We were inspired by a similar program developed by Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand.

The goal of the PIE Award is simple: identify and congratulate those in government who have found creative ways of saving taxpayer funds. 

Any office in state or local government can apply. If you work in county government, city government, a school district, or anywhere else in state or local government, and your office has identified an innovative way of saving taxpayer money, we want to hear about it. Did you downsize your fleet of vehicles? Sell some property that was unneeded? Cut administrative costs? Cancel software licenses that weren’t being used? Streamline your purchasing to save money? Implement an energy efficiency program? We want to know.

Our application asks questions about how much you’ve saved for the public. We also want to know how your idea might be used by other government offices to save money around the state. My hope is that the PIE Award will help create a set of practices that can be copied by others. Good government can be contagious. Once one office finds a creative solution for saving money, I think others will follow suit.

Our first round of applications for the PIE Award is due at the end of February. We’ll select winners by April. If your office is chosen as a PIE Award winner, I might even stop by and bring you some pie to celebrate your good works. Pecan pie is my personal favorite, but I’ll let you choose.

The application for this award can be found online at the Auditor’s website at www.osa.ms.gov/PIE. Questions about the program or application process can be emailed to PIE@osa.ms.gov or directed to Kelley Ryan in my office.

One of my friends, a fellow state auditor from out West, once said to me that being State Auditor sometimes requires you to be the “skunk in the room.” That can be true when we’re holding people accountable for stealing your money. On those days, I’m not always the most popular person in government, but that’s okay. It’s part of the job. But it doesn’t have to be true every day of the week. We can still do our required work and highlight good government, too.

It’s important to honor good government. That’s because people need both carrots and sticks to encourage good behavior. The PIE Award is our carrot to nudge people to be responsible stewards of taxpayer funds. And yes, I’ll even bring you carrot cake, if that’s what you prefer.

Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi.