The state’s legislative watchdog committee has issued a report critical of the Mississippi Board of Barber Examiners, and suggests lawmakers consider dissolving it and the separate cosmetology board and put regulation of both under the Health Department.
Findings of the report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, or PEER, include:
- Mississippi has more restrictive requirements for a barber’s license than 40 other states.
- The board’s exam practices “are not effective in evaluating a candidate’s preparedness for licensure.” In the last year, only 39% of candidates taking barber exams passed.
- In the last year, the board inspected only 191 of the state’s 2,134 barber shops and schools.
- The board last year paid its members improper per diem and travel reimbursement, including paying board members for days they did no board work and paying travel expenses without proper documentation. It also improperly paid staff members at a lower mileage rate than that set in state policy.
- The board lacks internal accounting controls, which puts it at risk for mismanagement and fraud.
- The board’s “lack of knowledge and expertise related to required retirement contributions” cost the board and its licensees nearly $20,000 in delinquent interest payments. And, “the board might have extended its current lease with terms that are not in the state’s best interest.”
- The board’s records are hard to decipher and not easily accessible to staff. The board is not located in a state-owned office building and not easily accessible to licensees or the public.
- Lawmakers “should consider dissolving the Barber Board and the State Board of Cosmetology to create a Barbering Advisory Council and a Cosmetology Advisory Council within the Department of Health’s Professional Licensure Division.” Also, lawmakers should consider making age and education requirements comparable to those of surrounding states and consider prohibiting board members from administering exams.
Lawmakers and other state politicians have for years discussed and debated consolidating or eliminating many of the states scores of small agencies, boards and commissions and reigning in bureaucratic red tape in professional licensure and regulations. They are run by appointed boards, mostly members of the industry they regulate, which raises questions of fairness and competition.
But efforts to reduce or consolidate such boards have had minimal success. They have legislative and political clout. For instance, no elected leader relishes the prospect of thousands of barbers or cosmetologists mad over consolidation come election time.
The barber board refutes many of the PEER report’s findings and “does not agree or concur with dissolving (barber and cosmetology) boards under any circumstances.”
In a written response, the board said it does agree some changes need to be made, but “Dissolving boards does not address the issues of the industry. You will lose the knowledge, history and expertise of the current professionals attempting to streamline or effect cost savings over time.”
The board said it has tried but has not received support from the Legislature in updating current laws. It says it lacks funding to find a third party to administer exams and that its inspectors are part time and limited to working 60 hours or less a month, which limits the number of inspections annually. It said it also lacks funding for a records management system.
The board said, “All board members, inspectors and staff have been provided a copy of the state travel policy rules and regulations. All board members, inspectors and other staff will have training.” But it said it was not asked by PEER to provide documentation of travel and expenses and has since provided them. It also said the state has failed to provide help for the agency to secure better office space.