Lawmakers are raising concerns over using retired state employees as contract workers.
During fiscal year 2016, The Mississippi Department of Education paid independent contractors approximately 35 million dollars. Of that money, about three million dollars went to 114 former state employees currently doing contract work.
Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says the department relies on contract workers.
“We just simply don’t have enough bodies to do all of the work. We don’t have enough people to go out and audit all of the federal programs we’ve got to audit. Or all of the special ed programs that we’ve got to audit, that we’re required by law to audit. So the only way we can do that is to get contract workers. I would literally have to empty the department 100 percent of the time in order to get all of these audits done.”
But many lawmakers are uneasy with the idea of retired state employees coming back to work for the state. During a hearing of the legislative working group examining the state budget, Senate Appropriations Chair, Republican Buck Clark of Hollandale calls the practice worrisome.
“You mean I can draw retirement and get paid too? That really doesn’t work right. That can be abused somehow. This is paying people who are avoiding being employees.”
The Department of Education is not the only state agency under legislative scrutiny, 13 others under the microscope including universities and colleges, public safety, corrections, Medicaid and transportation. Lawmakers plan to continue their examination of the intricacies of the state budget in an effort to cut as much unneeded spending as possible.