Your tax dollars are hard at work.
A new report from the New Jersey Independent Watchdog Agency shows that millions of dollars in state pension funds may go to people who shouldn’t be in the system at all.
Acting State Comptroller Kevin Walsh said the State Department of the Treasury’s pensions and benefits division is struggling to clean a huge investigation backlog with no end in sight.
“There are hundreds of cases outstanding, and some of those cases include cases that this Office referred to them in 2012. The amount of money is considerable, it runs into the millions, ”he said.
He said while investigators continued to sift through these old cases, some “municipalities, school districts, fire departments and sewerage agencies would bring independent contractors into the pension system when they shouldn’t”.
Walsh emphasized, “The Division of Pensions and Benefits work has been effective, but we need more of it, they had 2 or 3 people at most to do this work.”
He said the Office of the State Comptroller’s report recommends putting more resources into the department to help speed things up.
Another suggestion that is being made is that “the legislature should consider expanding its powers to deal with units at the local level, especially when they are not cooperative.”
Walsh said the pensions and benefits department does not have the same powers to enforce compliance as other investigative agencies, and the report concludes that the department could do its job more efficiently if it were given additional powers to Such as referring the chief financial officer or certification officer to a non-compliant facility for violations of local government ethics law.
He pointed out that public institutions have often resisted requests for information during investigations. As an example, he said it took a ward in central Jersey three years and six separate requests to provide the requested information.
A 2012 report by the Office of the State Comptroller found that many municipalities and school districts violated state laws by allowing professional service providers, mostly lawyers with their own practices, to illegally acquire pension credits.
This latest report notes that the situation has improved significantly, but abuses still occur.
The report also found that the Department of Pensions saved an estimated $ 59 million for taxpayers by cutting or cutting retirement benefits for approximately 185 independent contractors and other ineligible individuals.
The Office of the State Comptroller is an independent state agency that works to make the New Jersey government more efficient, transparent, and accountable.