The Ebola outbreak occurred over a year ago but it now seems like a distant memory. For a while, millions of Americans worried that the disease would spread. The final statistics show that last year, 28,000 people were afflicted with the disease. Of those, 11,000 died. Most of the victims were in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There were two in the United States, both healthcare workers who contracted the disease in Africa.
In response to the epidemic, President Obama made an emergency spending request to Congress of $6.18 billion to combat the spread of the disease. This month, the inspector generals of the U.S. AID agency, Health and Human Services, Defense Department and State Department issued a report on the nation’s response to Ebola.
Whenever the government races to a crisis with little planning, massive waste and fraud often result. This is particularly the case when much of the spending occurs outside the United States (in this case West Africa.)
As noted in the report,
“Financial and procurement systems play an important role in any major international response effort, and this is particularly so for contingency operations. In past contingency operations, the challenges associated with the rapid influx of response resources in crisis environments have added to financial and procurement system risks. In Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, the Commission on Wartime Contracting noted that “Poor planning, management, and oversight of contracts has led to massive waste…”
We couldn’t agree more.
The government’s efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak have been effective. There is no faulting the thousands of troops, CDC personnel and others who responded to the crisis. Unfortunately, there is probably a massive amount of fraud that also took place and may still be continuing.
The inspectors general are in the early phases of their audits. The report notes the agencies are setting up hotlines. The US AID agency already has an Ebola fraud hotline. There are no statistics on the number of whistleblower calls made to the hotline.
In our experience the government’s whistleblower hotlines have limited usefulness. The best way to combat fraud is by filing a False Claims Act complaint in federal court. That is also the only way to receive a large cash whistleblower award.
Whistleblower Awards and the False Claims Act
Established by Congress during the Civil War, the False Claims Act allows people with inside information about fraud involving government funds or program to file a sealed complaint in federal court. If the government recovers money based on information and leads found in the complaint, the whistleblower can receive 15% to 30% of whatever the government recovers.
There is a catch, however. The program generally pays only the first person who comes forward. That means if you intend on becoming a whistleblower and earning an award, act quickly.
With billions of dollars being spent in West African nations and on U.S. contractors supplying goods and services, we suspect much of our tax dollars earmarked for Ebola programs has been instead misdirected. Overbilling and billing for services and goods never delivered are the two most common scenarios in government procurement frauds.
If you have inside knowledge of fraud in the Ebola program or any foreign aid program, give us a call. Last year the government paid out over $635 million in whistleblower awards (our clients received over $100 million).
Need more information? Contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers