Public universities could face more audits for misspending under new bill

By: - October 20, 2022 7:06 am

Sen. Declan O'Scanlon said recent headlines on Rutgers' spending inspired the legislation, which would allow state officials to appoint a special auditor to investigate claims of abusing public funds at state colleges and universities. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

On the heels of reports revealing Rutgers athletics programs spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on food deliveries for athletes, one senator wants to expand the state’s power to audit public universities’ spending of taxpayer dollars.

“You start to wonder, what’s going on at other institutions that’s not being uncovered?” said Sen. Declan O’Scanlon. “I love Rutgers, but nobody, not even the biggest fans, should not be troubled by the lack of transparency.”

The bill (S3243) would allow the state’s secretary of higher education to appoint a special auditor to investigate claims of abuse of public funds and public institutions.

The Monmouth County Republican pointed to reports alleging the Rutgers football program spent $450,000 on DoorDash deliveries in one year, and another citing university documents showing Rutgers spent $118 million on athletics with just $45 million in revenue to show for it.

O’Scanlon said the recent headlines on Rutgers’ exorbitant spending sparked the idea for the legislation, but he wants to encourage more people to report bad or suspicious spending when they see it.

Under the measure, any person would be able to file a complaint alleging abuse of public funds to the auditor. If the auditor finds the school abused public funds, it would be required to pay back misused funds to the state and would be fined 1.25 times the amount of the cost of the investigation.

Funds received from fines would be used to fund future investigations, a draft of the bill says.

The legislation would also protect any employees or students who file complaints or participate in the investigation from retaliation. People who file frivolous reports would face fines of $500, according to the bill.

“If this is going on in other places, we need to hear about it,” he said, “and hopefully, this will incentivize people to talk about it and disincentivize these institutions from wasting what is essentially taxpayer money.”

New Jersey has 18 public community colleges and 11 public universities.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.