EDISON – Senator Buono today announced to expand her ethics reform efforts by introducing legislation that would create a comprehensive, searchable internet database cataloguing all State grants and contracts entered into or awarded by a State department, agency, or commission.
“Combined with my legislation to expand the duties of the Office of the State, this legislation to provide the public with open access to all State grants and contracts will begin to ease mounting concerns about government corruptions,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex.
Senator Buono added, “This online database will bring greater transparency in the awarding of State grants and contracts, and provide taxpayers with a tool to track State spending. It will help taxpayers to better hold government accountable for State spending.”
In addition to listing the name, address, and legislative district of the person or business entering into a State contract or grant, the proposed database would also contain regularly updated information on the amount of the grant or contract, the name of the State agency providing the grant or contract, the date awarded, and a statement of the purpose or intent of the grant or contract. State grants, contracts, subcontracts, cooperative agreements, loans, purchase and delivery orders will be included.
“As a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, I go to great lengths to scrutinize the State’s spending. However, after funding is appropriated to State departments, it becomes difficult if not impossible for the general public to track how state dollars are being spent,” added Senator Buono.
The database is aimed to build upon Senator Buono’s proposed Comptroller reform legislation, which would expand the authority of the State Comptroller’s Office by placing it in a newly created separate Executive Branch Department headed by an elected State Comptroller. Additionally, the independent office will have the authority to initiate investigations into all public contracts and it will be headed by a Comptroller elected by statewide vote.
“If we truly want to rid the State of spending excesses and improprieties, we need to shine the light of public scrutiny on this blight,” explained Senator Buono. “First we must make the State Comptroller directly accountable to the voters, then we must fully disclose all spending to the public.”
Under current law, the State Comptroller is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate to a six year term and is responsible directly to the Governor. The office is authorized conduct pre-approval reviews only if the contract exceeds $10 million. If the contract is between $2 million and $10 million dollars, the current Comptroller need only be notified following approval of contracts.
“By increasing the authority of the Comptroller and requiring increased public disclosure in the form of an internet database, the state will be able to more effectively prevent abuses from occurring,” Senator Buono said.
Senator Buono said she plans to introduce both pieces of legislation in the fall when the Legislature returns from recess.