Office of the Governor
Whitman Response to Investigation by
AG Panel on Implementation of Inspection System
NJ Gov. Christie Whitman issued the following statement in response to the report on the implementation of the enhanced motor vehicles emissions inspection and maintenance program prepared by Hon. Alan B. Handler, Kenneth D. Merin and Walter Timpone. Alan Handler is a retired Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, Kenneth Merin is a former member of the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) and former Insurance Commissioner, Walter Timpone is a former Assistant US Attorney.
"When I convened this special panel to investigate what went wrong with the implementation of this federally-mandated program, and why critical information was not brought to the attention of me or other appropriate government officials, I said I didn't care where the panel looked, as long as it found the truth. This report is thorough and truthful, the distinguished members of this panel deserve all of our thanks and appreciation," she said.
"The findings contained in this report recognize that the primary party responsible for the failure of the program is the contractor, the Parsons Infrastructure Group. The panel found that Parsons failed to meet its obligations and that the record of their performance is replete with missed deadlines and broken promises," she said.
"Clearly, this exhaustive report finds that at the same time that Parsons was failing to deliver on its contractual obligations and promises, senior project managers were failing to meet their obligations to communicate with their supervisors," she said.
"The report finds that senior project managers, driven by a zeal to meet a federal deadline and to avoid the potential loss of hundreds of millions of federal highway dollars, failed in their responsibility to supervise the implementation of this massive program.
"Senior managers of this project declined, despite all evidence to the contrary, to challenge the assertions by Parsons that their system was ready for implementation and failed to adequately warn cabinet officers of problems with the system.
"Communications breakdowns were further compounded by the dissemination of good news and rosy reports that were in direct contradiction to what was actually known, or should have been known," she said.
"The failure to adequately warn cabinet members and my office about inadequacies and shortcomings of the system, despite clear and explicit warnings to the contrary, precluded appropriate action by my office or the members of my cabinet," she said.
"Management of this enormously complex federally-mandated project was lax at many levels. We have already instituted changes to address these shortcomings and will institute further changes to assure there is no repetition of these failures," she said.
"Senior managers who are responsible for major projects will, in all cases, report directly to their commissioners. In addition, specific members of my staff will be directly responsible for the oversight of project progress and implementation of all major undertakings," she said.
"With respect to the enhanced inspection system, the DOT has already been reorganized so that a single person with a direct report to the Commissioner has been put in charge of managing this project. This change is designed to assure that there is no confusion or miscommunication on this project. In addition, DOT has been re-organized so that the Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles reports directly to the Commissioner," she said.
"Commissioner Weinstein has also indicated that he will re-establish an internal audit unit in the DOT's Office of the Inspector General. That unit will monitor major projects to assure that the kind of communications and protocol breakdowns that plagued the early implementation of this program are not repeated in this or any other major DOT projects," she said.
"The panel's report makes clear that in addition to failures by Parsons, the senior managers involved with this project failed in their responsibilities," she said.
"In the six months since this system experienced its near total failure upon start-up, we have made great progress. This project has received the kind of oversight and management that should have been exercised throughout its development.
"Persons in the employ of this administration should understand that failures to adequately manage, report and communicate will be considered nothing less than a breach of professional responsibility," she said.
"Parsons Infrastructure Group has been told in no uncertain terms that the State of New Jersey expects it to meet fully its contract obligations. Continued failures on the part of the contractor will be considered nothing short of a breach of contract," she said.
Note: Carl Passeri, the project manager has resigned effective June 30, 2000. At the recommendation of the Commisisoners of Transportation and Environmantal Protection, DMV Director Kamin was today offered a reassignment within the Department of Transportation and John Elston, administrator the DEP's Air Planning Office has been reprimanded.
Copies of the Panel's report may be obtained at the Department of Law and Public Safety.