TRENTON – The Senate today approved Governor Codey’s conditional veto of a bill to reform State and local contracting procedures based on the EZPass scandal during the Whitman Administration. The vote was 39-0 and it now moves to the Assembly.
“This measure will ensure greater integrity and accountability in the state and local contracting process,” said Senator Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, Middlesex and Somerset, and a prime sponsor of the reform legislation, S-2194.
Senator Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, another prime sponsor, said the bill is needed to “reform the way no-bid professional services contracts are awarded to prevent them from going to the biggest campaign contributors instead of to the most qualified.”
The measure would tighten procedures for giving State contracts and for contractor accountability based on recommendations by the State Commission of Investigation which found the 1998 EZPass contract under Governor Whitman was based on flawed revenue projections, wasted millions of dollars and resulted in payments to political contributors.
Initially, the SCI-based bill which the Senate passed earlier this year would have allowed upcoming contract announcements and other legal advertisements to be posted on certain government web sites as an option to being printed in newspapers, a move designed to save vast amounts of state and local tax dollars.
But Governor Codey conditionally vetoed the bill to allow the use of the Internet as a supplemental posting place for legal notices without allowing it as an alternative to newspaper advertising.
Other key aspects of the Karcher-Scutari bill would:
– Ban members of contract evaluation committees from having any family ties, personal interest or financial links to any potential vendors.
– Direct the Director of the Division of Purchase and Property to set regulations for contract oversight and for monitoring contract performance.
– Authorize the Purchase and Property Director to enter into bulk purchase agreements with other states or agencies for supplies deemed necessary for domestic preparedness and homeland security.
– Require all State employees who communicate with potential or actual vendors on contracts to keep written records of those contacts for at least three years.
– Establish a clear line of authority for a State Contract Manager to oversee and monitor complaints and to settle disputes about vendor performance in all major State contracts.