TRENTON – The Senate State Government Committee today approved a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny Jr. to create a permanent Office of Inspector General to root out mismanagement and wasteful spending at every level of government in New Jersey.
“This Office is needed to send a clear message to every agency receiving State funds that someone will be watching closely when they spend the people’s money,” said Senator Kenny, D-Hudson.
The measure, S-2195, would make permanent the executive order signed by Acting Gov. Codey who recently nominated 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 put every State contractor on notice that they had better fulfill their responsibilities to taxpayers – totally and honestly,” Senator Kenny said.
Calling the Inspector General, the “linchpin of communications” among the various state investigatory bodies, 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.
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 “buffered substantially from the whims of 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 sponsor of the bill is Senator Nicholas Asselta, R-Cape May.
The committee vote to release the bill was 5-0.
The measure now goes to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee because it contains a $3 million spending provision.