TRENTON – The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today approved a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny Jr. to create a permanent Office of Inspector General.
“This Office is needed to root out mismanagement and wasteful spending at every level of government in New Jersey,” said Senator Kenny, D-Hudson.
The measure, S-2195, would make permanent the executive order signed by Acting Gov. Codey who appointed lawyer Mary Jane Cooper of Titusville to be his Inspector General.
“With subpoena power and a full time staff, the Office of Inspector General will remind every State contractor that there is no wiggle room when it comes to fulfilling their responsibilities to taxpayers,” Senator Kenny said.
Senator Kenny noted that the I-G’s Office will refer all criminal findings and possible criminal activity to the Attorney General or appropriate county prosecutor, but will serve as a key linchpin of communication with all investigatory bodies.
A five-year term and the freedom to hire professional financial experts with a $3 million startup budget will ensure that the Inspector General is protected from changing political tides, Senator Kenny said.
The Inspector General’s Office would be in, but not of the Department of Treasury and would be authorized to initiate probes of contracts and other spending practices at every level of State, county and local government, including commissions and authorities.
“There have been many attempts in the past to eliminate waste in government and to root out corruption,” Senator Kenny said. “But this Office will provide the needed focus to make sure so-called independent investigations or in-house probes don’t just die of inertia or through lack of oversight and communication.”
The nominee for Inspector General would require Senate confirmation and could be removed from office only for cause.
“Public integrity in State spending will be restored by building on the lessons learned from the sins of both major political parties,” said Senator Kenny. “That why our progress in this effort will be marked by our bipartisan steps forward.”
The Republican prime sponsor of the bill is Senator Nicholas Asselta, R-Cape May.
The measure was approved without objection after amendments were sanctioned to provide the office’s $3 million startup appropriation from existing funds that would be transferred from surplus funds in other accounts. It now goes to the Senate for a floor vote.