Investigation finds deficiencies in Essex County’s $40 million COVID-19 vaccination program

The Office of the State Comptroller claims the county violated several federal, state and local procurement rules.

News 12 Staff

Apr 16, 2024, 4:23 PM

Updated 40 days ago

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A probe into Essex County’s $40 million COVID-19 vaccination program has found widespread deficiencies.
The Office of the State Comptroller claims the county violated several federal, state and local procurement rules. It also claims Essex County improperly used staffing funds and failed to properly oversee its vendors.
According to the report, the comptrollers office found the following:
  • The county overused the emergency exception to public bidding and did not conduct emergency procurements properly under either state law, the county’s own procurement code, or, where applicable, under the federal rules for procurement. This jeopardized millions in federal grant funds.
  • Essex officials failed to implement adequate policies for control and monitoring of contracts with business vendors. This practice more than likely increased overall costs for taxpayers and led to an overpayment of more than $110,000 to a vendor that went undetected until discovered by OSC.
  • The county spent $17 million on staffing, but it did not establish effective policies and controls for timekeeping, recordkeeping, hiring, and off-site work, among other areas, which led to multiple documented instances of fraud, waste, and abuse. While the county did take some action in response to those specific instances, it did not implement systemic changes to its oversight protocols to address the underlying causes.
Essex County's COVID-19 vaccination program was launched in Dec. 2020. A total of 622,016 doses were administered through August 2023.
Read the full report here.


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