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Govt. integrity report card gives state mixed grade

“Trust us. We’re the government.”

     While that phrase or something similar is often offered mockingly by those who have some beef with the government, a recent Corruption Risk Report Card gave Mississippi a C-plus in terms of government transparency and openness to limit the risk of corruption. That grade may not sound all that great, but it did rank the Magnolia State sixth in the nation.

     The report card was part of the State Integrity Investigation, a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, which looked at laws and practices as they relate to a variety of factors in each of the 50 states.

     No states received an A, and eight states failed. New Jersey received a B-plus to rank first.

     A glance at scores on Mississippi’s report card suggests some validity to the “trust us, we’re the government” phrase. That may be true in theory, if not in practice.

     Mississippi graded well in several government oversight categories, getting A’s for Internal Auditing, Redistricting process openness and for State Insurance Commissions. Mississippi’s State Budgeting Processes scored a B-plus.

     On the other end of the grading scale, the state received only a D-plus in the important area of Public Access to Information.

       Political Financing got an F, largely due to ineffectiveness of regulations governing that area. And accountability of executive, legislative and judicial officials graded no better than a C-plus.

     Mississippi’s report card can be viewed at www.stateintegrity.org

     One conclusion that can be drawn is that Mississippians may have some reason to trust their government officials, based on A and B scores in some areas. But current practices and ineffective laws governing openness – particularly when it comes to public records access – make it hard for citizens to do anything about it if they feel their officials are not deserving of that trust.

     Trust, they say, is earned. The state’s C-plus overall and lower grades for government openness show Mississippi leaders still have quite a way to go in reaching that goal.