Rutgers study finds little N.J. oversight of contractors

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A new Rutgers University study concludes New Jersey is failing to protect vulnerable citizens from poor service because it’s not monitoring its contracts with private companies closely enough.

With New Jersey turning over more of what it used to do to private firms, Rutgers Management and Labor Relations professor Janice Fine said there are fewer qualified state workers to oversee how well that work is being done.

“As a consequence, what largely we have in New Jersey today is oversight by audit and expose, which only catches problems after they arise and in many cases only once they have become quite severe,” Fine said.

The study cites the improper denial of grant money to Sandy victims and the lack of oversight at the Department of Corrections halfway houses that led to assaults and deaths.

It recommends a sweeping overhaul of the process, including a ban on outsourcing the oversight function to contractors and including oversight costs in contracts so the state has adequate staffing to do an effective job.

Patrice Mareschal, a public policy and administration professor at Rutgers, said the study found that state contract managers are not always properly trained.

“There are no institutionalized mechanisms within state government to ensure that sufficient resources exist so that individuals responsible for the majority of oversight are able to do the job well,” she said.

The study recommends the state ban outsourcing oversight to private contractors. It also suggests oversight costs be included the contracts so the state can have enough qualified workers to perform that task effectively.

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