NOVEMBER 27, 2006
Private contractors annually defraud the federal government out of billions of dollars and whistleblowers are the key to recovering much of the money with a record $3.1 billion reclaimed from corrupt businesses last year alone.
Most of the money was recovered from hospitals or other health care providers that fraudulently over billed the government. In fact, the biggest settlement ($920 million) came against the nation’s second-largest hospital chain, Tenet, for over billing the government for $806 million in Medicare payments and paying $49 million in kickbacks to doctors who referred patients to the chain.
Other high profile whistleblower cases include aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. for improperly carrying out contracts with the Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Halliburton’s millions of dollars in fake “war risk surcharges” in Iraq reconstruction contracts. Thanks to a pair of whistle blowers the giant Houston-based oil services conglomerate paid the government $4 million to settle that particular incident.
Whistle blowers have helped the government recover about $18 billion in the twenty years since lawmakers created legislation to protect them from retaliation for reporting fraud and corruption. A 1986 amendment to the False Claims Act provides extra protections for those employees who are discriminated against for participation or involvement in reporting official wrongdoing. The employee cannot be discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against.
This has motivated government employees at the city, county, state and federal levels to come forth with less fear. Until this year, the government had never recovered more than $2 billion in fraud cases. The False Claims Act has been around since 1863 but without the added 1986 whistleblower protection, retaliation was commonplace and employees were scared.
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