A Morris County Assemblyman will introduce a new bill requiring school districts implement best practices as well as expanding the authority of the state auditor to ensure safeguards against fraud and abuse.
Assemblyman Jay Webber said he is offering the legislation as all of the stakeholders—including students, parents, taxpayers and educators—should expect the best and most efficient use of educational resources.
“The state auditor consistently finds, however, that through carelessness or worse, school districts all too often waste that money,” said Webber (R-Morris) in a press release. “Laptop computers disappear. Health insurance bought for the wrong people. Failures to perform basic criminal background checks.”
Recently, the state’s auditor cited issues in the the Pemberton and Ridgefield Park school districts. The investigation of Pemberton schools revealed administrators purchased 703 extra Chromebooks beyond the total teacher and student population, costing taxpayers $313,000. In addition, district administrators could not account for where they went.
In Ridgefield Park, the auditor uncovered $3.6 million in unnecessary health insurance liabilities and multiple conflicts of interest on the part of school board members.
“New Jersey needs to beef up its ability to review and monitor our schools, and we need to do it now,” concluded Weber.
The New Jersey state auditor, an independent agency within the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services authorized to conduct random audits of school districts, would execute performance audits and analyze how well institutions are allocating resources. As part of the audit, a corrective action would be prescribed for identified failures.
“A performance audit may be the only current vehicle that evaluates the actual performance of government institutions, and we should be looking to expand it for that very reason,” reasoned Webber. “It is a more powerful tool to identify waste and fraud than routine fiscal audits.”
The proposed legislation will direct the state auditor’s office to release a compendium report based on past audits, including a collection of past problems identified in school districts and the best practices to avoid problems encountered in other districts.
Each school district will have to affirmatively certify that they are in compliance with those best practices, and the state auditor’s office will have the authority to conduct further audits on school districts to ensure all are in compliance.