With the trillions of dollars that Washington has been shelling out to schools, local and state governments and private employers since the beginning of the pandemic, let’s hope someone in the federal government is focused on trying to keep the recipients reasonably honest in how the funds are used.
With so much money flowing out, with such a rush to get it spent, and with government auditors and good government watchdogs trying to keep up with it all, it’s a recipe for large amounts of fraud and waste.
A perfect example may be coming out of Jackson, where a criminal probe is reportedly under way over a million-dollar cleaning expenditure for a service that may not have been performed, or at least not to the degree presented on the invoices.
The Clarion Ledger is reporting that L&N Enterprises, a Florence-based company that received nearly $1.1 million to deep clean and disinfect city buildings, is at the heart of a probe into the suspected misappropriation of public funds by a former Jackson employee.
L&N Enterprises received six payments from the city of Jackson from July 2020 to April 2021, the newspaper reported. Particularly suspicious was the nearly $613,000 the company received between December 2020 and February 2021. For all but about two weeks of that time, most of the city buildings were closed under an executive order by the mayor.
Also curiously for a company capable of doing a million dollars’ worth of work for one client, there seems to be precious little to verify its legitimacy. The newspaper said it found no listed website, business phone number or social media pages for L&N Enterprises. The newspaper recently went to visit the company’s address as registered with the secretary of state. It found, according to the story, “just three mobile homes on a large lot. Also on the lot was a boat, what appeared to be two new off-road style vehicles, a tow-behind trailer and several bottles of what could have been disinfectant.”
Maybe there will be a reasonable explanation for what looks terribly dubious. But even if it can be shown that the money was spent legally, that doesn’t mean it was spent well.
COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and the risk of getting infected by touching a surface where droplets have fallen is small. As a mitigation strategy, forking out more than a million dollars for an outside company to come in and sanitize surfaces sounds grossly excessive. Doesn’t Jackson have any janitors on its payroll?
Tim Kalich, Greenwood Commonwealth