"In the effort to rebuild New Jersey, every dollar matters," Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a statement. "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."
The comptroller's investigation - which began with a referral from two state agencies in May, prompted by media reports of Ocean County towns' being overcharged for Sandy services - examined how AshBritt and three monitoring companies tasked with reviewing the firm's invoices calculated debris-removal costs based on mileage traveled.
The investigation found that one monitor credited AshBritt haulers with driving greater distances within an Ocean County landfill than the other monitors - bumping trip lengths into a category that allowed AshBritt to charge a higher rate for the hauling services.
The debris monitor, Arcadis, could not explain why it had calculated the mileage the way it did, but has reduced trip distances by 7/10 of a mile and adjusted its invoices to reflect overcharges of $129,000 to one Ocean County town and $34,000 to another, the report said.
The Comptroller's Office also found that while it was "potentially" reasonable to round up mileage calculations - resulting in higher rates for some trips - AshBritt had agreed to adjust invoices downward by $47,000 after being questioned by investigators.
Regarding the pricing of AshBritt's services, the Comptroller's Office said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not recommend specific rates, issuing guidelines only that charges be "reasonable."
The Comptroller's Office also did not address the process by which AshBritt received the contract with New Jersey for cleanup along the Shore, saying that procurement-related issues are being separately audited by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general.
The agreement, an emergency contract entered into last fall in the days following the storm, incorporated the terms of a 2008 contract between AshBritt and Connecticut. AshBritt has said it expects to take in about $150 million from federal and local governments for its work in New Jersey, with some money going to subcontractors and landfills.
Democrats attacked Christie this year for failing to bid out the contract for debris-removal services, challenging the governor on the decision to hire the Florida-based firm. Christie has said that he consulted with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour about the decision and denied any impropriety.
Contact Maddie Hanna at 609-989-8990 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @maddiehanna