Auditor says Mississippi Blues Commission failed to keep records for nearly $1M in expenses, spent $2M to vendors without contracts

Published 9:53 am Friday, September 13, 2019

A state auditor’s report released Thursday found the Mississippi Blues Commission failed to keep proper documentation for millions of dollars of expenditures.

“I want to be clear that we saw no evidence of embezzlement, fraud, or any other criminal violations when we performed this study,” State Auditor Shad White said. “It’s also clear the Blues Commission has done the work that the Legislature asked it to do, which is putting up markers to promote the blues around Mississippi.

“But it should also be clear that there are significant documentation issues that exist at the Commission.”

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The audit lists a total of 17 findings at the Mississippi Blues Commission. Major findings include:

  • The Commission could not provide paperwork for over $950,000 of expenditures.
  • A total of nearly $2 million was paid to over 120 different vendors without a valid contract on file.
  • An “interim” fiscal agent has operated with an expired contract since 2010 and under policies not directly approved by the Commission.
  • The Commission did not establish accounts with the State Treasury as mandated by law to accurately monitor revenues and expenditures.
  • A comprehensive list of findings and corresponding recommendations can be found in the full report posted online at the Auditor’s website.
  • Originally created in 2006 by the Mississippi Legislature to promote the state’s contributions to blues music, the Commission had never been audited. After extensive review, the Auditor’s office now recommends dissolving the Commission and having its duties assigned to a private nonprofit organization to ensure the history of the blues is preserved and protect taxpayers from potentially improper spending in the future.

    “My personal opinion is that preservation of the blues in Mississippi is important, but it’s also important to make sure that every public body is handling money and documenting their spending the right way,” White said. “Given the issues we saw, I am recommending the responsibilities of the Commission be rolled into a nonprofit, the Mississippi Blues Foundation, that already exists. The nonprofit Foundation can continue to seek grants and raise private funds to promote the blues here in Mississippi, the Birthplace of America’s Music.”