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Buono To Seek Legislative Oversight Hearing In Wake Of Audit Showing Waste In Weatherization Program

Majority Leader Says DCA Needs to Explicitly Detail Corrective Steps

TRENTON – Responding to news that a second audit within the past year has uncovered continued lax oversight and mismanagement of the state’s $119 million weatherization program, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono said she would seek a hearing on the matter by the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.

The program is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is intended to help 13,381 low and moderate-income families winterize their homes, creating construction jobs and allowing homeowners to glean savings by making their houses more energy efficient. But an audit report released Monday by state Auditor Stephen Eells highlighted lax oversight controls that led to several contractors being reimbursed for questionable costs. In one instance, a contractor charged the program $27 for light bulbs.

“Whenever tax dollars are found to have been wasted, we need to take a hard look to ensure that the proper controls are actually being put into place,” said Buono (D-Middlesex). “The state’s weatherization program has had problems with lax oversight from the start. DCA told the auditor that a reorganization and new controls are being put in place, so now we need to make sure they get it right and make this the last negative report from the auditor.”

Buono said a hearing would allow lawmakers to hear directly from state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa on her office’s progress on implementing the state auditor’s recommendations.

According to the audit, while DCA controls were “suitably designed…these controls are not being effectively implemented in the area of program costs [and] inspections were not completed and program costs were not documented.”

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