The number of whistleblower suits brought since 2001 is so great that the Justice Department is unable to keep up with their investigation and prosecution. This appears to be particularly true in suits claiming that government contractors are bilking the government in connection with the war in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the delay is costing the U.S. taxpayers money. Suits brought under the False Claims Act in recent years have recovered nearly $13 billion to the U.S. Government.
The qui tam provision of the False Claims Act authorizes private citizens to file suit on behalf of the federal government to recover funds owed to it by contractors engaging in fraudulent practices.
Once a case is filed, it is placed under seal until it is reviewed by lawyers at the Justice Department. In cases involving the war in Iraq, it can take years for the government to investigate claims that government contractors knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies. The Justice Department reports that it has rejected 19 cases alleging government contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that it has 32 more cases currently under investigation.
The Justice Department admits that it is not sufficiently staffed to investigate all the whistleblower suits now on file. But the Department claims that its decisions on the cases concerning Iraq are based on merit, not on politics. Still, even Republican lawmakers have urged the Justice Department to step up the pace. “Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors,” stressed Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). “These patriotic Americans stick their necks out, against all odds, to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost.”
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