RICE MEASURE TO ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH MUNICIPAL AUDIT CLEARS COMMITTEE

Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, speaks during a meeting of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice which would require the State Comptroller to perform a compliance audit to ensure that municipalities which receive poor marks following a performance audit have taken the proper steps to address waste and abuse within their borders was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

“Unless municipalities are willing to do the proper follow-through on performance audits of waste and abuse within their borders, these documents simply aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “As municipalities are continually being asked to do more with less, we have to make sure that funds are spent with a level of oversight, accountability and transparency to guarantee they aren’t being wasted. This bill would make sure that local officials act quickly and decisively to end waste, fraud and abuse of the taxpayers’ trust.”

The bill, S-1345, would require the Office of State Comptroller to conduct a compliance audit of a municipality to verify that it has implemented a corrective action plan following a performance audit conducted by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). Under the bill, the compliance audit must begin no less than 120 days following the submittal of a copy of the performance audit to the State Comptroller, and the compliance audit must be completed within 12 months.

In addition, the bill would permit the Director of the Division of Local Government Services, within DCA, to refer findings that may constitute alleged criminal activity to the Attorney General or other appropriate prosecutorial authority for further civil or administrative action. Under current law, the State Comptroller is required to perform subsequent reviews on Comptroller-performed audits, but no similar requirement is in place for DCA-conducted auditing.

“Rather than looking the other way when it comes to complying with an audit, we need to keep the pressure on our elected local leaders and force them to address issues revealed through an audit in a timely and appropriate manner,” said Rice. “This bill would make sure that municipal leaders can’t drag their feet in complying with an audit, and are instead doing everything in their power to safeguard the taxpayers’ trust and taxpayer dollars.”

The committee approved the bill by a vote of 3-0. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.