TRENTON – Assemblyman John Burzichelli asked Department of Children and Families Commissioner Alison Blake Tuesday if the department was seeking to recoup funds from questionable expenditures lodged by service providers DCF contracts with.
Burzichelli was referring to an audit report issued two months ago by the Office of Legislative Services that found contractors spent taxpayer dollars on gym memberships, gifts, and even mortgages.
Blake said during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing that the department is trying to get the money back through “very serious, in-depth meetings” with the affected parties, saying “perhaps some mistakes have been made.”
The department is also considering some policy changes in light of the audit to prevent inappropriate spending.
“We’ll be overseeing our contracts in a much more stringent manner,” she said.
She said $438,000 has already been recouped.
But Burzichelli wondered how good these partnerships between the DCF and contractors must be if such a large amount of money is being spent on services that have little to do with protecting children and families.
“That doesn’t reflect a good partnership,” he said.
Nonetheless, Blake said she believes the discussions with the contractors to recoup funds will be productive, adding “I’m not anticipating legal action.”