On December 9, Ohio State Representatives Jeffrey A. Crossman and Paula Hicks-Hudson announced the introduction of the Ohio False Claims Act. The law is modeled off the highly successful federal False Claims Act which incentivizes whistleblowers to report government contracting fraud.
Ohio is one of the few states which has not enacted its own False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act empower whistleblowers who have firsthand knowledge of false or fraudulent claims to report them to the appropriate government officials. Whistleblowers whose information helps lead to a successful enforcement action are entitled to monetary awards, which are often in the millions of dollars.
The federal False Claims Act dates back to the Civil War but was modernized in 1986. Since then, whistleblowers have helped the government recover over $64 billion. The law has been described by the U.S. Assistant Attorney General as “the most powerful tool the American people have to protect the government from fraud.”
According to the press release announcing the introduction of the bill, “The Ohio False Claims Act would:
- Set out civil penalties for violators;
- Allow for a person to bring civil action against the violator(s) on behalf of the State and of that individual;
- Allow for the State to intervene in civil actions brought by individuals on the State’s behalf;
- Set out guidelines for awarding proceeds from successful civil actions to the individual bringing that action;
- Set out remunerations for employees who are subjected to retribution by their employer for participation in the civil action.”
“Ohio is potentially letting criminals get away with millions of dollars of ill-gotten taxpayer dollars by failing to adopt these long-needed and commonsense reforms,” said Representative Crossman. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t adopt techniques like this to catch and punish fraud.”
In addition to the Ohio False Claims Act, Reps. Crossman and Hicks-Hudson announced the introduction of the Debarment of State Vendors legislation. This bill would bar vendors from receiving contracts if they are caught committing fraud in their dealings with the State of Ohio.
“These two anti-corruption bills are ways to further protect taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Hicks-Hudson. “Currently, there are not strong measures to hold state vendors accountable for their actions and prevent wrongdoers from continuing to do business with the State. These bills will correct that.”