The out-of-state contractor that handled Ocean County's debris cleanup after Superstorm Sandy overcharged taxpayers more than $300,000 for its services, a state investigation released Tuesday revealed.
The Office of the State Comptroller found a series of "erroneous and miscalculated hauling charges" filed by AshBritt Inc., but did not find "persuasive evidence of intentional overbilling."
The Florida-based disaster management company billed towns a total of $328,942.15 in "overcharged and other questionable billings" for its cleanup effort, the investigation found.
AshBritt was the debris hauler responsible for disposing of the debris, while three debris-removal monitors – Arcadis U.S., Inc., the Louis Berger Group, Inc. and Witt O’Brien’s, LLC – were responsible for calculating the transport mileage supporting each invoice and recommending whether payment should be made by the municipality, the report said.
The overcharges represented approximately six percent of the total debris hauling charges that the comptroller's office reviewed as part of its investigation.
The vendors have agreed to "adjust all of those overcharges identified by OSC and credit the towns that were overbilled," a statement from the comptroller's office said.
The report did not detail all of the overcharges by town, but did include several examples, including overcharges of $129,463.98 to Brick and $34,196.48 to Bay Head due to erroneous mileage reimbursements.
In addition to Bay Head and Brick, the towns that were overcharged include Little Silver, Mantoloking, Point Pleasant Beach and Berkeley Township.
AshBritt handled debris management for nine municipalities in Ocean County alone.
The investigation found several factors contributed to questionable charges, including the absence of specific standards for calculating debris transport mileage and what was termed by the agency to be "vague language" in the debris removal contract, as well as logistical factors unique to Ocean County.
The factors included whether mileage should have been charged by haulers once inside the Ocean County landfill in Manchester Township, whether it was reasonable to round-up debris transport mileage calculations, and whether the debris monitors utilized appropriate mileage calculation methods.
“In the effort to rebuild New Jersey, every dollar matters,” State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said. “We are pleased that as a result of this investigation, towns recovering from Sandy will recoup debris hauling fees that should not have been paid.”
To see the state press release, with a hyperlink to the complete report, click here.