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Just about wherever they looked the other day, the state's auditors struck it rich--but only for those who were doing business with We the People, that is, taxpayers.

Happily, a couple of contracts with the state are now former contracts, as two stories showed over the weekend. In one, auditors found the state had overpaid some outfit called the Trauma Education and Research Foundation more than $655,000. The state apparently paid for estimated costs instead of actual costs for trauma courses. And the foundation reportedly sold some stuff it shouldn't have, and paid for a nice party/conference/junket that the state can't, and shouldn't, pay for.

"This is pretty amazing to me," concluded state Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View, "that this group owes the state of Arkansas now with the over-billing and the equipment [it sold] . . . $730,236." The director of state's health department, Nathaniel Smith, concurred with Senator Irvin when he concluded that "this is pretty amazing stuff in a bad way." What are these people doing still working with the state? Short answer: They aren't.

In a second story (thank you all, blessed auditors) the state terminated a contract with an Oklahoma-based investment manager who was supposed to find venture capital opportunities. The company had been paid more than $5 million. One official, who knows from diplomacy, said the contract with the company "has proven not to be as advantageous for the state as it has for" the company.

State Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana might also have been temperate in his language, this time, but there's no doubt what he thinks about this contract with the state government and this particular contractor. His conclusion: "I don't believe that these type of investments are anything that the state wants to risk our assets on, especially since these are borrowed funds and we have a line of credit . . . to basically invest in high-risk investments. I would hope that what we are going to try to do is get out with no losses. . . . I would hope we would proceed that way." So, surely, would the state's law-abiding and economy-minded citizens. But so long as it's somebody else's money, anything goes. After all, it's just government money. That is, tax dollars. And who pays that? (Oh, yeah, that would be all of us.)

Senator Hickey sounds very much like the retired banker he is. It's assuring to have him and folks like Missy Irvin, not to mention all those state auditors, on the job. But it's discouraging to read about the Creative Accounting reflected in some expense accounts submitted to the state. Like so much of society today, it's enough to leave anyone trying to stick to his own budget aghast, if you'll pardon our French, at the chutzpah on display. Neither of our presidential candidates these dispiriting days of Trump vs. Clinton can come even close to matching the sheer gall.

In the first story and glaring example, there was the $5,700 bar bill run up for drinks at a legally dubious conference held just across state line in Missouri, a $1,500 tab for s'mores--fifteen hundred dollars for s'mores!--and another charge for more meals than conference attendees.

The moral of these demoralizing stories isn't entirely clear yet, but the clearer it becomes, the worse it looks, and the worst may be yet to come, sad as that prospect is. Just now it looms like that iceberg headed for the H.M.S. Titanic, and the best the guardians of Arkansas' purse seem barely able to keep up.

Lord help us. For as usual, He remains our last, best hope. Or as that political sage Bette Davis put it in a memorable moment on screen, as best our ever fallible memory can recall just now: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." Or maybe a bunch of nights. Sleepless ones, we hope, for those who don't give We the People everything we deserve for our tax dollars.

Editorial on 11/09/2016

Print Headline: Keep the receipt!

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