TRENTON – A new special auditor would be established to investigate reports of public money being misused by colleges and universities, under a recently proposed bill.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, drafted the legislation (S3243) following a series of media reports about questionable spending, capped by a story by The Record about players on the Rutgers University football team ordering $450,000 in DoorDash deliveries in 14 months.

“I’m a big fan of Rutgers football, but even loyal supporters like myself find it hard to swallow this irresponsible and unmonitored waste of taxpayer dollars,” O’Scanlon said.

“Since the institution can’t or won’t do more to protect our money, my bill will mandate a special auditor to serve as the people’s watchdog,” he said. “We can’t tolerate taxpayers being treated as cash machines.”

How the public auditor would investigate colleges

The special auditor would be appointed by the state’s secretary of higher education.

Any public college or university determined to have abused public funds would have to repay the money to the state, plus be subject to fines for 125% of the cost of the investigation. The money would be used by the Secretary of Higher Education to fund future inquiries.

Documents filed by Rutgers with the NCAA show the university spent $118 million on athletics but generated $45 million in revenue in the 2020-21 academic year.

“Rutgers football is spending money like a big-time program, but they aren’t bringing in big-time revenue. Not yet,” said O’Scanlon. “Residents are subsidizing the university with almost a half billion dollars every year. It isn’t fair to over-taxed New Jersey families to throw this money around without accountability or oversight.”

The proposed bill is one of many seeking a variety of audits across the state

A1090: Directs State Auditor to conduct performance review audits of public institutions of higher education.

A1154, A3829/S2380: Directs State Auditor to audit the Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Division of Unemployment Insurance.

A1712: Directs State Auditor to conduct performance review audit of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.

A2056/S1864: Authorizes State Auditor to conduct cost-benefit analyses of at least one current or proposed program costing $1 million or more in each accounting agency and independent authority.

A2112/S923: Expands duties of State Auditor to include performance audits at the request of a legislator; establishes Performance Audit Committee, consisting of eight public members, to help conduct performance audits.

A2960: Expands authority of State Auditor on performance audits of school districts; requires State Auditor to issue report on school district audits from previous five years; requires appropriation of $1.5 million to Office of State Auditor annually for such audits.

A3574: Requires State Auditor to conduct performance audits of randomly selected school districts to determine any cost savings and fraudulent uses of public funds during or related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

S748: Requires State Auditor review of certain Department of Corrections privatization contracts.

S932: Expands audit powers of State Auditor; requires online publication of certain materials; requires performance review audits of certain business incentive programs.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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