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Mississippi has again received a grade of C+ in government spending transparency according to a report released Wednesday.

The report comes as the Legislature is considering several transparency and contract spending reform measures in the wake of the prisons contract bribery and other corruption scandals.

“Our grade ought to be an A-plus,” said state House Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Chairman Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn. “That’s where I’m planning to go with it. If I get my legislation passed, we’ll go to the head of the class.”

The House has passed Turner’s “omnibus” reform act that would crack down on no-bid government contracts, close loopholes and increase oversight and even require government officials to report expensive gifts they receive. The Senate, which killed contract reform measures last year, has passed weaker measures. Turner says he hopes the House proposals can prevail in conference as the legislative session draws to a close.

The new report says Mississippi’s transparency website still fails to allow data to be downloaded in bulk or easily searched, and “does not provide any links to tax expenditure reports.” It says Mississippi officials estimate that every information request fulfilled by its website instead of a state employee saves taxpayers between $750 and $1,000.

“With that kind of savings on the line, the state should aim to continue improving next year so it doesn’t fall behind the tide of nationwide improvement,” the report says.

The report said the leading states with the most comprehensive transparency websites include Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas.

Contact Geoff Pender at (601) 961-7266 or gpender@jackson.gannett.com. Follow @GeoffPender on Twitter.

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