Lax administration leads to abuse of NJ accounts for first responders, audit finds

 Acting New Jersey Comptroller Marc Larkins said he hopes the report leads to better oversight of the program. (AP file photo)

Acting New Jersey Comptroller Marc Larkins said he hopes the report leads to better oversight of the program. (AP file photo)

The New Jersey Comptroller’s office has found lax administration of a program allowing towns to deposit public funds into tax-deferred investment accounts for volunteer firefighters and first aid responders has led to abuses.

 

Auditors examined volunteer service organizations in Middletown, Lebanon, Galloway, and Wall Townships, acting comptroller Marc Larkins said Tuesday.

Two-thirds of the funds in the Length of Service Award Program were contributed in error because volunteers were not active or didn’t have the required number of credits.

“Each agency had an individual that in theory was responsible for oversight and transmission of paperwork and documentation up to the municipal level,” Larkins said. “In certain instances those individuals claimed that they weren’t trained for the role, that was no clear guidance, that there was some confusion in the law.”

More than 400 emergency service agencies operate throughout New Jersey, and about $200 million is invested in accounts on behalf of those volunteers.

Larkins said he hopes his report leads to better oversight of the program.

“To make sure that the funds that are set aside for our volunteers who are putting their life on the line are actually being protected and are provided to those who earned the right to receive those payments,” he said.

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