The Savannah River Site is a nuclear facility[1. Savannah River Site Fact Sheet, http://www.srs.gov/general/news/factsheets/srs.pdf] built in the 1950s and maintained by the federal government via several contracts with engineering and environmental firms. According to its mission statement, the site is “a key Department of Energy (DOE) industrial complex responsible for environmental stewardship, environmental cleanup, waste management and disposition of nuclear materials. More specifically, SRS processes and stores nuclear materials in support of national defense and U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”
One such contractor, known as Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group (Parsons), maintains a contract for the maintenance of its saltwater waste processing facility,[2. Contract between U.S. Dept. of Energy and Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group, http://srcontracts.srs.gov/docs/parsons/Part_1.pdf which it built pursuant to a contract awarded in 2002. Since then, the company is alleged to have billed the DOE and other government entities for expenses not actually incurred, resulting in significant overpayment and, ultimately, financial harm to taxpayers.
Details of the alleged fraud
According to the details released publicly, Parsons is alleged to have unlawfully billed the federal government for unallowable relocation costs for various workers hired to help maintain the saltwater waste processing plant.[3. Key, Randy L. “SRS Contractor Settles False Claims Act Allegations For $3.8 Million.” September 2, 2015. http://wjbf.com/2015/09/02/srs-contractor-settles-false-claims-act-allegations-for-3-8-million/] Under the terms of the contact, Parsons was permitted to submit claims for reimbursement for reasonable relocation expenses for long-term employees hired to work at the facility. These expenses could include actual travel expenses, meals, lodging, and moving fees. In exchange for the agreement to reimburse these expenses, Parsons had to certify to the government that the employees intended to remain employed by the company on a permanent basis and intended to reside permanently near the Savannah River Site area.
According to the allegations, Parsons sought reimbursement not only for long-term employees, but also for those relocating to the area on a short-term basis, which was in violation of the direct terms of the agreement.[4. Peiffer, Emily, “Major contractor Parsons agrees to $3.8M settlement amid False Claims Act allegations.” September 3, 2015. http://www.constructiondive.com/news/major-contractor-parsons-agrees-to-38m-settlement-amid-false-claims-act-a/405091/] The Department of Justice said in a statement, “Those who expect to do business with the government must do so fairly and honestly….Today’s settlement demonstrates that the Department of Justice will pursue contractors that knowingly seek taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled.”
Parsons also commented on the matter, stating that it opted to settle the conflict “because the corporation has determined that the costs of continuing the dispute would far exceed the amount in dispute and would continue to divert valuable resources from its core mission of supporting its customers.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office similarly commented, stating, “The District of South Carolina continues to devote significant resources to pursuing claims under the False Claims Act and this is yet another example of how this commitment is benefiting the taxpayers by recovering funds for the government….”
Contact Berger Montague today
If you are aware of fraud under a government contract and would like to discuss your information with an experienced whistleblower, please contact Berger Montague today.