Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America Pay $1.6 Million Settlement to Resolve False Claims Allegation
Back in January of this year, the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America Corporation agreed to pay the government $1.6 million to resolve false claims allegations for funds that were awarded to it by grants from the Department of Justice. Those grants were intended to help at risk children. “Organizations such as Big Brothers do great work, but in carrying out their mission they also have an obligation to the populations they serve and to the taxpayer to ensure that government grant funds are used responsibly according to the rules,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer at the time. Mizer head’s the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
Since 2004, Big Brothers have received millions of dollars in grants from the Justice Department to help initiatives designed at aiding “at-risk” children. A condition of those grants was that Big Brothers maintain sound accounting and financial management systems that would assure those funds be used for their intended purpose. The government alleged that Big Brothers violated these guidelines with respect to three grants awarded to the organization by the Justice Department from 2009 to 2011. The United States alleged that grant funds were improperly commingled with general operating funds. It was further alleged that by failing to separate these expenditures Big Brothers failed to ensure that the funds were used for these intended purpose. The allegations were the focal point of a 2013 audit of the grants performed by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. Since then, Big Brothers have replaced its management team and begun implementing polices that are in line with government regulations.
“We appreciate the support of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Civil Division in working with us on these kinds of cases,” said Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz at the time. “The OIG’s auditors and investigators will continue to work with each other closely to uncover misuses of grant funds, and with our law enforcement partners to ensure that justice is served.” As part of the $1.6 million settlement, Big Brothers agreed to institute a compliance program that requires the organization to engage in regular audits, establish a compliance team, an employee code of conduct, whistleblower polices and a disciplinary policy for employees who fail to disclose abuses of federal grant funds. The compliance program also provides for regular employee training on theses polices and risk assessment tools to detect abuses in the system.
If you have knowledge of fraud that has been committed against the government or one of its agencies you are encouraged to report it and to contact a Whistleblower law firm. A qui tam attorney can advise you of your rights and gauge the strength of your case.