Shining a Light on Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in All Levels of New Jersey Government Program Recap

A big thanks to Nicole Acchione and Rich O’Brien from the Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Division, for speaking about the mission of the agency and how it works tirelessly to ensure public funds are spent properly and public figures act ethically.  The Office of the State Comptroller is a relatively new state agency, created under Governor Corzine in 2007 and expanded in 2010 under Governor Christie, replacing the Office of Inspector General and Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.  The State Comptroller is appointed by the Governor for a 6 year term and reports directly to the Governor, even though the agency is in the Department of Treasury.

The mission statement of the OSC is:

To promote integrity and transparency at all levels of New Jersey government by auditing government finances, examining the efficiency of government programs, investigating misconduct by government officers, scrutinizing the legality of government contracts and recovering improperly expended Medicaid funds.

The OSC has authority to investigate the state executive branch, private organizations who receive state or federal funding (if being administered by a state agency), local and municipal governments, public institutions of higher education, and school districts; this is roughly 12,000 different entities throughout the state.  Among it’s responsibilities are:

  • Audit and assess expenditures and performance of any of the above groups or individuals in those groups
  • Review pending and current government contracts for financial and legal compliance
  • Investigate and uncover misconduct, waste and abuse
  • Investigate fraud,waste and abuse in the Medicaid program

In order to carry out it’s mandates, the OSC is divided into 4 Divisions:

  • Audit Division – responsible for conducting audits and reviewing the performance of the executive branch of state government, public institutions of higher education, independent state authorities, local governments and school districts. In addition to performing audits, the Audit Division is tasked with performing follow up reviews to track the implementation of recommendations made by the office.
  • Investigations Division – works to detect and uncover fraud, waste and misconduct involving the management of public funds and the performance of government officers, employees and programs
  • Procurement Division – reviews the legality of public contracts involving school districts, counties, municipalities, state agencies, state authorities, local authorities and public institutions of higher education
  • Medicaid Fraud Division – works to improve both the efficiency and integrity of the New Jersey Medicaid, FamilyCare, and Charity Care programs by investigating, detecting and preventing Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse.

The Investigations Division several tools it can use that mirror the Judiciary, including:

  • Conduct interviews, surveillance, and site inspections
  • Subpoena for testimony or document requests
  • Use government databases

While the OSC cannot take any legal action to bring a criminal or civil case against any individual or organization, it can use it’s finding to recommend to state and federal prosecutors that there is actionable evidence of wrongdoing that may warrant further investigation by the judicial branch.  Furthermore, OSC findings can also recommend that state or local lawmakers revisit existing laws or policies to correct any issues uncovered during an OSC investigation.

There are multiple ways the OSC can receive complaints that may eventually turn into an investigation.  First and foremost, the OSC relies on tips and information from the public.  Additionally, news media or public reports can prompt the OSC to conduct an investigation or an inquiry into the matter.  The OSC also takes referrals from other government units.  Lastly, the OSC also conducts proactive investigations, such as monitoring the Federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act funds for Hurricane Sandy.

If you would like a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/State-Comptroller-Presentation.pdf.

If you suspect any waste, fraud, or abuse, please call the Government Waste and Mismanagement Hotline at 1-855-OSC-TIPS (672-8477) or file an online complaint at https://www.nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/complaint.html.  All information is completely confidential.  If you would like to read any of the Reports from the Investigations Division, please visit https://nj.gov/comptroller/divisions/investigations/reports/approved/investigation_archives.html.  If you would like to contact Nicole or Rich, you can reach them at 609-789-5001 or 609-292-4782 respectively.