Wyatt Emmerich

Contractors use political donations to procure business

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By Wyatt Emmrich | March 24, 2016 | www.northsidesun.com

Startup Engineering company Trilogy Engineering is trying to get a $400,000 contract with the city of Jackson to study lead contamination in the water supply.As it turns out, Trilogy’s top executives were involved in fund-raising efforts for Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, who is Wyatt Emmerich 2015_44THUMBpushing the council to give Trilogy the contract.When council members grilled Trilogy president Phillip Gibson about fund-raising for the mayor he responded, “So does every other engineering company in the state.”

Therein lies the problem. Throughout Mississippi, contractors donate to politicians who, once elected, pay back their donors by favoring them for huge government contracts. As a result, taxpayers are overcharged. This needs to be against the law.

Instead of concentrating on the best services for the least amount of money, contractors focus on buying politicians.

The cost of this corrupt system to Mississippi taxpayers is in the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars. This type of corruption is a significant factor in explaining Mississippi’s low per capita income compared to other states in the South.

If you look at successful states such as Florida or Texas, you will find extremely well-crafted bidding laws that apply to all levels of government. The bidding process is regulated by one centralized well-staffed agency with hundreds of professionals who monitor the process for fairness and legality. It’s good government.

Then look at Mississippi’s bidding laws. They are a jumbled, fragmented, vague, superficial mess with no centralized enforcement. Not to mention the hidden loopholes conveniently disguised throughout thousands of pages of state statutes.

Readers may recall the recent bidding scandal involving former prison head Chris Epps. The federal government estimates this one scandal alone cost taxpayers $300 million.

As it turns out, the Mississippi Department of Corrections was exempted from all bidding laws a decade ago by a single line of law snuck into an unrelated bill. Nobody knows who did this or why, but some of the people who were convicted along with Epps were former legislators.

Most states have documentation for all proposed laws and amendments to state legislation. That way you can go back and track these sneaky under-the-radar amendments. Not so in Mississippi. These types of loopholes are done in secret. Only a few conniving legislators know the score. Just one more example of how our corrupt state government operates.

Successful states require government work to be awarded to the “lowest responsive bidder.” That means the bid must be responsive to the request for proposal and must be the lowest price. –

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