The United States government uses a number of contractors in many different areas. For example, manufacturers make training gear for the U.S. military, and the prison system has many contracts for staffing the prisons and helping maintain its facilities. Many medical clinics and hospitals receive funding from Medicaid and Medicare contracts.
Just like anyone else, the government assumes that the contractors they are working with will work with them fairly and honestly. When those contractors fail to do so, they may be found in violation of the False Claims Act. Whistleblowers who see this fraudulent activity can then inform the government of the impropriety. This not only helps stop that fraudulent activity, but also allows the whistleblower to claim compensation for prohibiting dishonest acts against the government.
Types of Government Contractor and Procurement Fraud Claims
There are many types of government contractor and procurement fraud claims. Due to the vast amount of government contracts out there, any time a contractor makes any type of fraudulent claim within those contracts, they can be held liable under the False Claims Act. Some of the most common types of fraud claims include:
- Bid rigging: This occurs when two or more companies agree to not compete for government contractors, or limit the amount on bids, which undermines the bidding system.
- Price-fixing: Like bid rigging, price-fixing involves two or more companies agreeing to fix their prices, which detracts from healthy business competition. It is also prohibited by the federal government.
- Breach of contract: The most common breach of contract in qui tam claims is when a contractor uses substandard products or services that are different than what was outlined in the contract.
- Unlawful product substitution: When contractors knowingly use prohibited products from certain other countries, it violates international trade law.
- Inflating costs: Commonly seen in the healthcare industry, when a contractor inflates government invoices and bills, this is a violation of the False Claims Act.
- Providing false information: This is typically done in order to procure the contract. Contractors misrepresent themselves, their qualifications, or their product in order to obtain the contract. This hurts the integrity of the entire process.
When any of these types of fraud happen with government contracts, it is typically someone who works for the contractor who is the first to notice. The receptionist at a health clinic for example, may notice that a doctor repeatedly inflates Medicare bills. When this is the case, it is important that those employees come forward.
Why the Need for Whistleblowers?
Many people understand that others may try to defraud the government, but are not sure why it is their responsibility to blow the whistle on that fraud. The answer is simple.
Any time the government pays money to a contractor, it is really the American taxpayers who pay for it. The government represents the people and works on the public’s behalf. When any contractor defrauds the government, they are really defrauding the public. When fraud continues, as it often does for years before it is noticed by anyone, taxpayers are hurt even more.
While compensation is available for whistleblowers that help protect the government from fraud, the most important reason to blow the whistle is because it is the right thing to do.
Contact a California Qui Tam Lawyer to Help You Blow the Whistle
If you work for a government contractor, such as a Medicare provider, and you think you have uncovered fraudulent activity, contact a Qui Tam attorney in California who can help.
At Willoughby Brod, LLP, we know the kind of fraud involved in government contracts, and we know how commonly it happens. You are likely uncertain about coming forward, but it is the right thing to do. We will help you every step of the way. Contact us today at (800) 427-7020 for your free case evaluation and we will review all of your options with you.
(image courtesy of Sean Pollock)