Ousted Sandy Contractor Grossly Overbilled NJ

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

Newly released documents show a company hired to oversee applications for a New Jersey home-rebuilding program after Superstorm Sandy billed the state $51 million over eight months before an agreement to end the deal.

That meant that New Orleans-based Hammerman Gainer Inc. billed for three-fourths of the amount of its three-year, $68 million contract in just eight months.

The housing program that HGI oversaw has had administrative problems as well as a funding issue: There is not enough money allocated in the federal government’s storm relief package to pay to rebuild all the homes damaged or destroyed in the storm.

The program gives grants to homeowners to cover costs up to $150,000 that are not picked up by insurance or other government programs. HGI was hired last year to run the application process. In January, the state confirmed that the company was no longer on the job but did not say more.

This week, for the first time, Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable told a panel of lawmakers that the firm had performance problems, but did not mention how much the company billed in the first eight months. He also said the other bidder was seeking $190 million over three years to do the same work. The price difference was significant enough, he said, that it would have been “irresponsible” not to hire HGI.