TRENTON – A key State Senator today said she believes “hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved annually” if the State implements longstanding recommendations for proper oversight of professional services contracts.
“It’s intolerable to hit taxpayers with the price tag for State contracts that balloon in size while no one is properly trained to oversee their implementation and ensure accountability,” said Senator Barbara Buono, Chair of the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee.
Senator Buono said she was appalled to learn that recommendations issued in 1996 by the Office of the State Auditor to train so-called contract managers for professional services accords were agreed to, but never properly implemented by administrations of both political parties.
“I’m convinced that hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved annually by tracking these professional services contracts with properly trained managers who could ensure the State receives what it pays for,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “It’s clear that it’s not happening now. In reality, there’s been no meaningful response to a call for action made a dozen years ago by the State Auditor.”
Despite written notice from former Treasurer Brian Clymer in 1996 that he agreed proper training for contract managers overseeing professional services agreements was warranted, it’s never been properly implemented, Senator Buono said.
The most recent State Auditor’s report analyzed contracts awarded to outside vendors totaling $800 million a year over two years ending in August of 2007. It’s first recommendation – for a contract managers’ training program –mirrored one from the 1996 review of outside contracts for services ranging from tourism advertising and computer systems analysis to pension actuarial services.
“Too many initial contracts are being expanded exponentially through bid waivers and basically no oversight,” said Senator Buono. Competition when contracts are changed or expanded will save taxpayers’ money, she said.
In one instance cited by the State Auditor in the 2007 report, an unnamed State agency awarded an initial $100,000 consulting contract and then expanded it to other services costing $672,000 without competitive bidding.
The State Auditor is a constitutional officer appointed by the Legislature and assigned to the Office of Legislative Services.
Senator Buono said she will make the professional services contracting reforms recommended by the State Auditor a priority in the upcoming budget hearings of her panel.
“I want every department to justify its contracting procedures and explain how it is ensuring accountability,” Senator Buono said.
She said the two key audits concerning the reviews of professional services contracting were available online at the Office of Legislative Services Website, http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/auditreports.asp.