2021 in Review: Holding New Jersey Government Accountable at All Levels

A look back at how the Office of the State Comptroller worked to hold New Jersey government accountable in fiscal year 2021.

  • Posted on - 12/7/2021
  • Author - Kevin D. Walsh, Acting State Comptroller

Working to hold government accountable means relentlessly advocating for the people of New Jersey and finding ways to save taxpayer money. It means following the facts where they lead, shining a light on mismanagement, and leaving no stone unturned when it comes to rooting out fraud, waste or abuse.

OSC’s unique role as a government watchdog is one my staff of roughly 140 takes seriously. Often working from a tip offered by a conscientious New Jersey resident or public employee, OSC auditors, investigators, analysts, attorneys and professionals are dedicated to the work of making New Jersey government more efficient, transparent and accountable.

Audit Division

Our Audit Division, directed by Yvonne Tierney, combed through the fiscal and operating practices of school districts and municipalities and made recommendations designed to safeguard public funds. Auditors also evaluated purchasing policies within the state Departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Environmental Protection, identifying inefficiencies and more ways to save taxpayer dollars. In addition to those audits, the division completed eight follow-up reviews of prior audits to determine whether auditees had implemented OSC’s recommendations.

Investigations Division

OSC’s Investigations Division, headed by Ravi Ramanathan, examined the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC) approval of medical monitoring settlement agreements for public employees. This investigation found those settlements unnecessarily harmed the State’s pension funds. An investigation into the fiscal operations of the Borough of Palisades Park found troubling fiscal problems, including unlawful sick leave payments to public employees and a policy that allowed employees to use credit cards to gas up their personal vehicles, to the tune of $125,000 in one year. OSC investigators also performed a seventh review of the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) focusing on internal affairs and disciplinary processes as part of a review tied to the prevention of racial profiling. OSC recommended changes to NJSP’s policies and urged the NJSP to evaluate data on race, gender, and rank when evaluating its disciplinary processes.  OSC generally found that the NJSP complied with policies and procedures in place for to ensure that troopers act appropriately in carrying out their duties.

Medicaid Fraud Division (MFD)

The Medicaid Fraud Division (MFD) within OSC, led by Joshua Lichtblau, has multiple oversight efforts underway to combat waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid Program – and to good effect. MFD’s audits, investigations, and other oversight activities resulted in the recovery of more than $72 million returned to state and federal budgets this year. In an audit of durable medical equipment provider Surgical Sock, MFD found the provider didn’t maintain documentation to support the services given, or used the wrong billing codes. MFD also completed audits of partial care providers, such as group and individual outpatient therapy services. In one such audit of Archway Programs, MFD found that slightly more than 56 percent of Archway’s sample claims failed to comply with relevant regulatory requirements. Providers can be excluded from participating in New Jersey’s Medicaid program for numerous reasons including criminal convictions or exclusions issued by a New Jersey licensing board, or even the federal government. MFD excluded 79 providers for failing to meet the standards for integrity in the Medicaid program.

Procurement Division

The Procurement Division, led by Barbara Geary, pre-screens proposed procurements exceeding $12.5 million, and reviews contracts over $2.5 million after they are awarded. Our team reviews public contracts to make sure they are following state and local laws, and to make sure that favoritism and cronyism do not impact how government purchases what it needs. Reviews by the Procurement Division cover contracts awarded by municipalities, school districts, state colleges, and state agencies and authorities. OSC’s Procurement Division reviewed 700 contracts this past fiscal year, 140 of which were valued at $12.5 million or more. Division attorneys also reviewed 364 contracts valued at between $2.5 million and $12.5 million.

COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Project

With billions of federal recovery dollars having been received by New Jersey because of the pandemic, I formed OSC’s new COVID-19 Compliance and Oversight Project, led by Jillian Holmes, to promote accountability and transparency in our recovery from the pandemic. A central part of our COVID oversight work involves mitigating the risks of fraud, waste and abuse by helping state agencies and authorities and local governments stay one step ahead of those who may take advantage of an assistance program.

Public Engagement

This year, our communications office, spearheaded by Megan Malloy, overhauled OSC’s website to include a comprehensive reports database allowing users to search OSC reports going back to the very first ones issued in 2009. We also streamlined resources for procurement professionals, Medicaid professionals, and local governments using COVID recovery funds. And we launched a new blog written by OSC employees to help educate the public on the work of OSC, and to make it easier to submit a tip. As a result of our efforts to reach New Jerseyans, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of tips we received.

Our work for 2022 is well underway, and you’re going to see a lot more of us here, on social media and in the news. We also love hearing from you, both on social media and through our tip line. Some of our most impactful investigations were the result of a tip. So reach out to us by phone at 1-855-OSC-TIPS. You can also email us, or submit a tip on our website if you suspect fraud, waste or abuse.

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Government Waste and Mismanagement Hotline: 1-855-OSC-TIPS (672-8477)