A bill to reward informants — and sniff out government fraud in Georgia

The Most Intriguing Bill of the Day award goes to HB 822, a hand-crafted, bipartisan bill that would give informers a financial incentive to rat out government fraud, whether in the state Medicaid program or in your local city hall.

A quartet of names are on the bill: House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta; state Reps. Roger Lane, R-Darien; Alex Atwood, R-Brunswick; and Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur. The Office of Legislative Counsel indicates that its lawyers only did light editing, which means the bill is the personal handiwork of the four lawmakers.

The “Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act” would apply to any public board, municipality, county, school board, hospital authority or other political subdivision – including MARTA. Falsifying records would be included – so test-score cheating would apply.

Penalties would be “a civil penalty of not less than $5,500 and not more than $11,000 for each false statement or fraudulent claim, plus three times the amount of damages which the state or local government sustains.” Plus attorney fees.

A private citizen – presumably not part of the fraud — can file an action, and if successful would “receive at least 15 percent but not more than 25 percent of the proceeds of the civil action or settlement of the claim.”

Here’s hope: In cases of fraud uncovered by the news media, awards of 10 percent could be considered. Even those who are part of a conspiracy might be rewarded with a little something, according to the bill – as long as the informing miscreant can escape indictment and conviction.

It appears that the cash would come from those successfully accused — so deep-pocketed wrongdoers should be considered a primary target.

“The concept has been around since the Civil War,” said Lindsey. The federal government revived the practice in 1988, and several states have followed. Three years ago, Lindsey carried similar legislation — but it only applied to the state Medicaid program.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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49 comments Add your comment

ld

January 30th, 2012
2:46 pm

For Shame. You say “snitches” like it is a dirty word.

On a playground, perhaps; w/regard to taxpayer funds or fraud connected w/anything gov’t, no.

Big Newt

January 30th, 2012
2:53 pm

snitches get stitches

Rule .303

January 30th, 2012
2:56 pm

There is no Legislative Budget Office, so you probably mean the House Budget Office or Legislative Counsel.

Patrick Malone

January 30th, 2012
2:59 pm

This bill would be fine if it included punishment for those citizens and/or media whose claims were proved to be without merit. Without that provision you will have every conspiracy theorist claiming fraud since there is no downside and considerable upside.

bob

January 30th, 2012
2:59 pm

Damn snitches be hatin!

Kyle

January 30th, 2012
3:02 pm

“Snitches” “Rat-Out” ??

Awesome way to write about people who want to do the right thing in a dangerous situation. I never seem to read a story that describes the people misappropriating funds as “pieces of garbage”. Maybe you should start applying strong slang descriptions to people who deserve it instead of easy targets.

Ryan Shakur

January 30th, 2012
3:07 pm

LOL @ bob & Big Newt

aj

January 30th, 2012
3:15 pm

Wow,your headline and article glaringly illustrate why people are hesitant to speak up about anything anymore – Having some integrity isnt being a ‘rat’ and having the guts to swim against the polluted stream isnt being a ’snitch’. Its cool,in just a few more years biased newspapers like this one,simply parroting what their financial backers tell them to write will be all the way extinct and independent blogs will be the preferred source of the public’s info.

Rock on,Jim.

Jaded Guy

January 30th, 2012
3:18 pm

My red-headed EX-girlfriend is going to rewarded by OUR tax-paying dollars?

Jaded Guy

January 30th, 2012
3:19 pm

Oh, the article read “SNITCHES.”

Oops. I need to clean my glasses.

My bad.

PMC

January 30th, 2012
3:22 pm

Would guess this opens the door for blackmail too though.

Disgruntled employees everywhere are excited. Americans LOVE to sue.

BamaDawg

January 30th, 2012
3:25 pm

A state should have a false claims provision that applies to state taxpayers’ funds to prevent misuse and fraud. And those who help recover these funds are called “relators,” not snitches. At a federal level, relators receive up to 15-25% of the net recovery.

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
3:29 pm

GA’s version of the federal whistle blower laws.
It’s not stated explicitly in the article, but I assume the target of the lawsuits would be businesses and corporations that conduct business with the governmental entities and who presumably have deep pockets or liability insurance to cough up the cash for the penalties.

I’m fine with the objective of the proposed legislation, but I’d rather see legislation passed that is designed to force the bureaucrats to install checks and balances and reviews that will prevent the fraud in the first place. I’d also like to see penalties implemented that forever forbid a company or corporation (and its officers) from ever again being awarded a government contract in cases where fraud is proven.

The Snark

January 30th, 2012
3:36 pm

I thought that’s what we paid the GBI and the Attorney General to do. Oh, I forgot. Twelve years of budget cuts and they no longer have enough staff to do their jobs.

Not Blind

January 30th, 2012
3:41 pm

A snitch is one wrongdoer who rats out another. Some law abiding citizen that blows the whistle on somebody stealing money out of the taxpayers’ pocket is just being smart.

Cutty

January 30th, 2012
3:42 pm

Snitches get stitches!

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
3:48 pm

Cutty

January 30th, 2012
3:42 pm

Snitches get stitches!

NO. Snitches get Riches!

clyde

January 30th, 2012
3:58 pm

Snitches are Bitches

Cutty

January 30th, 2012
4:04 pm

“Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.”

-Jimmy Conway, Goodfellas

There is a sickness in GA

January 30th, 2012
4:08 pm

If they don’t include penalties to people who make false claims of fraud this bill will end up becoming a nightmare financially for the state. I think that’s what “BamaDowg” is saying, too. On the other hand, if they do include penalties it will discourage “relators” from blowing the whistle when fraud occurs. Dilemmas, Dilemmas.

Shine

January 30th, 2012
4:34 pm

The deep pocketed crooks just make their stealing legal through the federal, state, and local governments….like development authorities for instance…like tax abatements for instance…like tax breaks for the “right” businesses…..

Double Zero Eight

January 30th, 2012
4:41 pm

The lobbyists will make sure this bill never passes.

nelsonh

January 30th, 2012
4:42 pm

I do not like that. It makes “snitching” professional. Like Bounty Hunters of the Old west. Like VanCleef and Clint in “For a few dollars more”.
Actually I like the sound of it “professional snitch”. How would you get your leads? Clint got the wanted posters at the Sheriffs office. A “PS” would hang out in the medicaid clinics.

Well, I have to get going, got to check the phone directories for good leads.

PR

January 30th, 2012
4:56 pm

Georgia needs a whistle blower law like this. Georgia politicans are all dirty and can not be trusted. They lie, cheat, streal,don’t pay taxes…you name it. Georgia voters need to clean house and get of ALL of the losers!

obama loves dumb blacks

January 30th, 2012
5:00 pm

LOL! Thanks for the new career!

jumping jack flash

January 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

The main question – is it retroactive, like Sonny’s tax exemption?

honested

January 30th, 2012
5:16 pm

I anticipate substantial lobbying contributions in opposition from reservoir construction interests, old energy production interests, paving and ‘hot lane’ interests and public works financing interests to name a few.
There is apparently a belief in place that business cannot be done in GA unless off-the-record payments are exchanged.
I hope we have enough money in the budget to build the necessary prisons.

Rick Lockridge

January 30th, 2012
5:21 pm

The use of the perforative “snitch” in black English vernacular is supposed to be a commentary on dishonest policing, but actually it’s the clever invention by thugs of a rhetorical device to protect other thugs–blacks tricking other blacks into protecting felons and making themselves vulnerable to even more black-on-black crime.

Its use in this headline is a serious error in judgment –at best– because people who courageously stand up to report waste or crime deserve praise, not clumsy, unwarranted disparagement. You should have a serious talk with the editor who wrote this headline unless you wrote it yourself, in which case–shame on you.

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
5:38 pm

@Rick?

Seriously? The word snitch as “underworld informant” goes back more than 300 years, long before “black English vernacular”.
And what the hell does “perforative” mean?

I don’t know if you are a bigot or just ignorant, but your post easily qualifies as the dumbest of the day.

double

January 30th, 2012
5:54 pm

Hed- would that be kickfwds.or kickbacks?

informant

January 30th, 2012
6:15 pm

hehehe – FINALLY! Someone has answered my prayers!

I look forward to cashing in .

informant1

January 30th, 2012
6:17 pm

Waves stack of fraud notes

Seattle Whistleblower Attorneys

January 30th, 2012
7:23 pm

The word “snitches” is inappropriate.

A major obstacle to detecting fraud is that perpetrators do so in private and the fraud goes undetected. Therefore, internal whistleblowers are needed in the fight against fraud. A survey conducted in 2011 by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that nearly half of occupational fraud cases were uncovered by a tip or complaint from an employee, customer, vendor, or other source. (See http://www.acfe.com/uploadedFiles/ACFE_Website/Content/documents/2008-rttn.pdf) An academic study from the University of Toronto in 2011 that looked at 216 reported fraud cases against U.S. companies with 750 million in assets between 1996 and 2004 confirmed that whistleblowers play a bigger role in detecting fraud than external auditors, government regulators, self-regulatory organizations, or the media in detecting fraud.[See http://www.afajof.org/afa/forthcoming/4820p.pdf

Indeed it is well established that whistleblowers are integral to the fight against fraud.

Hugh G. Rection

January 30th, 2012
7:28 pm

Snitches are bitches that get stitches and wind up in ditches.
Just keeping it real, gnomesayin?

Simeon Namore

January 30th, 2012
7:30 pm

Operant phrase: “that would give” No one is going to vote for this. In Georgia, we can’t get either party to agree to get their fat faces out of the lobbying trough. It’s too yummy.

Look before I leap...

January 30th, 2012
9:36 pm

Takes two to tango.
If there is fraud on the part of government contractors, there is either collusion or incompetence on the part of the government agency(s) involved.
Not sure this bill effectively addresses the government side of the problem.

Jeff Sexton

January 31st, 2012
3:55 am

Clearly, these people have NEVER read 1984.

Inspector Gadget

January 31st, 2012
5:40 am

That’s some very dangerous work to try and attempt.

Ga Dem

January 31st, 2012
6:15 am

I’d like to snitch on every member of the Ga House and Senate. Do I get a per head reward? Those dirty bags waste more tax payer money than all the fraud put together.

Hera

January 31st, 2012
7:07 am

Those who said the author proved why people do not come forward are right. Snitches are doing the right thing. Thieves and liars who steal my tax dollars are not and should be punished by fines or be incarcerated.
Here is the other thing I want Government to do. I want a 24/7 TV Channel dedicated to posting rewards to catch Criminals in every State. And if the participant wanted the publicity, to give them their 15 minutes of fame by praising them on TV.
This would be such a better use of National and State Public TV funds then the waste of my tax dollars they use producing the current programs they air. None of which is a valid function of government in these times of austerity. But putting the faces of Criminals, in a civil or criminal matter, would be a justifiable use of tax dollars and a valid function of our government to serve and protect us.

Morning Reads for Tuesday, January 31st

January 31st, 2012
7:10 am

[...] birther case. – Given everything that has gone on in Georgia schools lately, I can understand why a bill like this is being pushed; but there will be abuse of it. – The Georgia Public Policy Foundation will host PayPal co-founder [...]

James Jordan

January 31st, 2012
7:26 am

It’s a crying shame that we have to put a price tag on morality don’t you think?

NewtBeGone

January 31st, 2012
7:31 am

@Obama Loves Dumb Blacks, YOU ARE AN IDIOT!! WERE YOUR PARENTS SISTER & BROTHER YOU MORON!! PATHETIC, STUPID LOSER!! CRAWL BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK, YOU WON’T BE MISSED!!

COBBIT

January 31st, 2012
7:36 am

There should be some reward for reporting bias reporting by the AJC.

I could make a living off of Jay Bookman.

Jeff

January 31st, 2012
7:37 am

Hera: They don’t lose their rights until they are CONVICTED of whatever they are accused of, and even then only temporarily and only certain rights.

DJ

January 31st, 2012
10:16 am

Galloway … you are off base using “snitches” that has a negative connotation esp. in ethnic groups. Far better to use “whistleblower” or “truth teller” or “honest citizen”.

Cutyouup

January 31st, 2012
10:35 am

snitches get stiches all day!

Rick Lockridge

January 31st, 2012
11:33 am

@ Look:

Perjorative–not perforative. Damn auto-correct!

But to your criticism:

Words have a literal meaning, a historical meaning, and a current meaning. The CURRENT meaning of “snitch” in our popular culture carries a highly negative connotation; it is “someone who cooperates with authority who should instead be keeping their mouth shut.” The thug-led street campaign against snitches in inner-city America is among the most serious of many self-inflicted wounds by inner-city black Americans.

But even before it was co-opted by B.E.V., “snitch” was still a highly disparaging thing to call someone. So why would it be used in the context of describing a person who was trying to point out government waste and fraud?

A person who would write such a headline either does not have the skill to write for a living or is clumsily trying to spread some social or political nonsense. Either way, they need to find new work.

This headline reminds me of the previous official AJC tweeter, whose Tweets were full of gutter-level thug slang and mangled syntax (such as calling police the “po-po.”) Leave such cuteness to Creative Loafing, okay, and try to get back to being a news outlet people can respect.

Gray Champion

January 31st, 2012
1:30 pm

This is not journalism; it is panderism. The term is Whistleblowers. Write ir on the chaulk board 500 times.