When it comes to transparency with the state government's financial reporting, Mississippi is far from last according to a newly released report.
The non-partisan financial advocacy group Truth in Accounting ranked Mississippi sixth nationally, tied with five other states, for transparency with the state's comprehensive annual financial report.
The report graded states on a scale from 0 to 100 and Mississippi tied with Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Nevada and New York with a score of 80.
Truth in Accounting graded the state's comprehensive annual financial reports on several criteria that included:
Being easily accessible online.
Searchable with links in the table of contents and bookmarks.
Audited by an independent auditor from outside government.
Received a clean opinion from the independent auditor.
Published with 100 days of the end of the state's fiscal year.
Report all pension liabilities on the balance sheet in the report.
Include a net position of the pension system that's distorted by what Truth in Accounting called misleading and confusing deferred items.
According to the report, all 50 states publish their annual financial reports in PDF format. Only 15 states used outside accounting firms to audit their financial reports and Mississippi wasn't one of them.
Mississippi was the second-highest ranked state in the Southeast, with only Georgia (81 out of 100) scoring higher. Tennessee scored a 79, while South Carolina (78), Florida (76), Alabama (74), North Carolina (73) and Louisiana (62) lagged behind regionally. Arkansas was tied for second-worst (50) with New Mexico.
Connecticut was the nation's lowest for financial transparency, with a score of 44, while Utah was the top-scoring state with a score of 85, edging Washington by one point.
Forty six states received what the report terms a clean opinion, which means auditors found that a state's financial condition was accurately and fairly presented. Three states — Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska — received what is called a qualified opinion by auditors that said the reports accurately revealed the states' financial conditions with a few issues.
New Mexico received a disclaimer of an opinion, which the report says means that the state flunked its own audit.