Bill Will Protect Against Fraud, Abuse & Waste
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver and Assemblymen Lou Greenwald, John Wisniewski and Thomas Giblin to employ integrity oversight monitors to ensure that federal funds that come to the state for rebuilding efforts following a major storm or natural disaster, including the billions expected for Hurricane Sandy recovery and rebuilding projects, are used effectively and efficiently, received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“Large-scale projects, particularly rebuilding projects caused by natural disasters are vulnerable to abuse. The influx of taxpayer money coming our way demands additional supervision of how these funds are being used,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “Communities devastated by the storm that have been waiting for financial assistance to start rebuilding should rest assured that there will be careful oversight of how these funds are spent in order to prevent any potential abuse or fraud.”
Subject to the availability of federal funding, the bill (A-60) authorizes the use of oversight integrity monitors to oversee recovery and rebuilding projects to ensure legal compliance, detect misconduct and encourage best practices in the administration of these projects.
A large portion of the $60 billion post-Sandy package approved by Congress and the President will be flowing through New Jersey to help rebuild communities affected. According to experts, all large-scale construction projects are prone to abuse and recovery projects following natural disasters are especially vulnerable. Integrity monitors have proven effective elsewhere, including New York City, where they were used for the rebuilding at the site of the World Trade Center in the wake of 9-11.
“New Jersey is expecting billions in federal dollars to help rebuild the communities ravaged by the storm. Having integrity monitors watching over these projects will help prevent any potential abuse or fraud, and ensure the funds are meeting their purpose, which is to help these communities rebuild and recover as expeditiously as possible,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington).
“Residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by this storm have endured enough,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “The purpose of these monitors is not just to serve as watchdogs over the federal dollars that are headed our way, but to make sure that they are being spent effectively and efficiently so that residents who are relying on these funds are not affected any further.”
“These monitors have proven effective in managing rebuilding projects in other states. There is no reason why we shouldn’t use them here to help ensure a seamless and timely rebuilding process,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “There are some communities that need to be rebuilt entirely. They are depending on this money. It is vital that we provide careful oversight of these funds for their sake.”
The bill authorizes the state treasurer to use integrity oversight monitors in recovery and rebuilding projects that involve state contacts, as well as those projects not involving state contracts. Under the bill, the state treasurer may waive the use of monitors if there is already sufficient oversight.
The bill requires the state treasurer to create a pool of qualified integrity oversight monitors. The state treasurer must qualify monitors for inclusion in the pool through a public procurement process in accordance with existing public contracting laws and regulations. However, to expedite their implementation, the state treasurer is authorized under the bill to administer the public procurement process as expeditiously as possible under existing public contracting laws and regulations, and to take such anticipatory action as necessary to begin the selection process and creation of the pool before the state receives the federal resources dedicated to the recovery of Hurricane Sandy and other storms.
The monitor pool must be made available through a public website. Monitors would have to periodically report to the government entity that is a party to the contract, as the state treasurer deems necessary, and would be required to immediately report any finding of a likely criminal violation or lesser degree of waste, fraud and abuse to the attorney general and the state comptroller.
Lastly, on the first business day of each calendar quarter, monitors would have to provide a report to the state treasurer for distribution to the legislature and the governor detailing services rendered, including, but not limited to detailed findings concerning the provision of services and recommendations for corrective or remedial action relative to findings of malfeasance and inefficiency.
The bill was approved 74-0 by the Assembly on Thursday and 39-0 by the Senate in February.