Today, Jaime Herrera Beutler introduced a bill that would stop taxpayer money from going to people who lied about their business’s qualifications in order to win government contracts.
A 2012 investigative report by Seattle’s King 5 TV revealed that multiple business owners filed misleading or false applications in order to win lucrative transportation contracts through Washington state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. Some of the contracted businesses weren’t disadvantaged at all. Yet a loophole in federal law allows businesses disqualified from the DBE program for cheating the system to continue work on federally-funded transportation projects – and get paid for it.
Jaime’s bill puts a stop to this practice of rewarding cheaters. It requires the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (USDOT) to close this loophole and prohibit federal transportation dollars from being paid to businesses kicked out for cheating the system. In addition, the bill directs USDOT to recuperate unobligated funds made available to these fraudulent businesses.
“It’s bad when people cheat the system on the taxpayer’s dime, but it’s worse when those folks are caught and continue to be rewarded. My bill ends the payday for people who break the law to line their own pockets,” said Jaime. “For every crooked contractor that continues to collect taxpayer dollars, that leaves one less opportunity for a struggling small business to compete. When it comes to spending the public’s money, there is simply no room for fraud or abuse at any level.”
Background: The King 5 investigative series, Fraud on the Job, found that multiple people had falsified their businesses’ qualifications to gain access to Washington state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. One Mukilteo-based business was still carrying out contracts worth $31 million, despite having been thrown out of the program.