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Phil Bryant

Bryant orders contracting reforms in wake of Epps, McCroy scandal

State agencies will be forced to operate more openly in advertising, amending and awarding contracts, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says in a issuing a pair of executive orders Thursday on state contracting.

The orders also mandate increased professional knowledge of contracting among Mississippi Department of Corrections contract workers.

One of the orders, Order 1362, requires agencies posting contracts online to also post an analysis describing why a personal or professional services contract was awarded, renewed, or amended.

The actions are based on recommendations from the Task Force on Contracting and Procurement that Gov. Bryant established in November.

Another directive, Executive Order 1361, requires the Department of Corrections to become a Certified Purchasing Office as determined by the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

Achieving the certification requires at least 50 percent of the purchasing agents at MDOC to earn a national purchasing certification from the Universal Public Purchasing Certification Council or other nationally recognized purchasing organization. All MDOC purchasing agents must also hold a certification from Mississippi’s Basic or Advanced Purchasing Certification Program.

“This training will benefit MDOC employees by equipping them with additional skills and will protect taxpayers by ensuring that the people who oversee public contracts are certified to high standards,” Bryant said in a statement.

The reforms grew out of contracting misdeeds by former MDOC chief Chris Epps in his dealings with Rankin County businessman Cecil McCroy. Both pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and are awaiting sentencing

Building on the Mississippi Transparency Act of 2008 and on contracting reforms passed in the 2015 legislative session, Executive Order 1362 requires agencies posting contracts online to also post an analysis describing why a personal or professional services contract was awarded, renewed, or amended.

The order also requires agencies to provide all employees with information about the fraud and abuse hotline maintained by the Office of the State Auditor.

Additional recommendations from the Task Force on Contracting and Procurement will be considered for legislative action, according to Bryant.

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