Mississippi News

White testifies to House Ways & Means Committee

State Auditor Shad White addressed the US House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Work and Welfare on the massive misappropriation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds uncovered by his office. White presented the case to lawmakers in Washington, DC, and emphasized the need for stronger safeguards to prevent such fraud in the future.

“My hope in testifying today,” said Auditor White, “is that the story of what happened in my home state will help ensure that it never happens again elsewhere.”

Mississippi’s welfare scandal emerged in 2019 when the State Auditor’s office received a tip regarding a potential kickback scheme involving the Department of Human Services (DHS).  The Office of the State Auditor’s investigation then revealed tens of millions of dollars had been misspent between 2016 and 2019. White provided his findings to prosecutors who have now obtained guilty pleas from six individuals, including the former head of DHS and influential nonprofit executives. The pleas included admissions of fraud and money laundering, among others. Prosecutors—who make the decisions about which individuals to charge with a crime—continue their work on the case. 

“We provided every document we have in the case to federal authorities years ago and have assisted them as they make their final decisions,” added White.

The DHS welfare scandal represents the largest public fraud case in Mississippi history.

During the hearing, White proposed reforms to strengthen oversight and accountability. He recommended the federal Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Require state agency heads to sign statements under penalty of perjury about the number of people served by welfare, 
  • Punish state agencies that fail to properly monitor nonprofits receiving welfare grants, 
  • Report improper spending to Congress, 
  • Implement stricter eligibility criteria for TANF funds so that only the truly needy are eligible. 

“As we wait for the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice to make their decisions about whether to prosecute anyone else, I’ll once again thank the team at the Office of the State Auditor,” said White. “Their quick work stopped the loss of millions of dollars, and if reforms are implemented, it might prevent future losses in other states.”

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