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$43 million

October 20, 2010

Working for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority sounds as if it has its perks. The NJ state comptroller’s office released an audit Tuesday saying the authority squandered $43 million in the past two years. Where did the money go? The report criticized awarding bonuses for work that also earned overtime -- to the tune of $30 million -- giving employees free E-Z Pass transponders so they could travel without incurring tolls ($430,000) and setting up scholarships for children of authority employees ($89,000).

Employee bonuses and payouts, which included bonuses for employees who worked on their birthdays and snow removal and holiday bonuses, for which employees also earned overtime, are in many cases outlined in collective bargaining agreements that will expire next year.

The audit pointed to a cumulative effect of the bonuses on some employee earnings, noting that one Turnpike Authority property inspector retired in 2008 with a base salary of $73,000 but a $321,985 payout that year.

In addition to employee perks, the audit criticized the authority for not participating in the state Health Benefits Program, which it said would have saved it $12.8 million, and failing to exercise adequate oversight of outside contracts, including $224,168 in legal fees that were improperly billed.

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