I suppose it can’t be an “underplayed” story if it was on A1, but I’m still a little surprised this didn’t stir up more discussion today:
More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.
The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions — all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers.
Critics argue that the delays are at least partly the result of foot-dragging by Justice and the federal agencies whose position it represents, especially in the touchy area of suppliers that may have overbilled the government for equipment, food and other items used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Justice lawyers have rejected about 19 cases involving contractor fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, registering five settlements that resulted in $16 million, officials said. Government officials said this week that they are considering whether to dive into 32 more whistle-blower cases involving Iraq or the Middle East.
I like the idea that investigating military suppliers is somehow “touchy,” when by all rights those are the guys we should be holding to the highest standards — “overbilling” in their case could mean, you know, body armor that doesn’t work. Really, the lives of our sons and daughters are in their hands. Why does the Bush administration hate the troops?