According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has spent to date over $437 billion on the Iraq War. An additional $100 billion is estimated to be spent this year. While much of the money, obviously, goes for troops, a great deal of these amounts has gone to civilian contractors involved in reconstruction efforts in Iraq. But where has the money gone and who is accounting for its proper use?
According to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, “Eventually we’re going to have a bill for about $1 trillion dollars and people are not going to be able to account for a very, very large part of it.” It is shocking to us that the Justice Department has done so little to address ever increasing reports of contractor fraud and abuse in Iraq. After three and a half (3 ½) years of war, to the best of our knowledge, not a single criminal case has been filed against any large corporation doing work in Iraq. While a few qui tam actions are beginning to emerge publicly, given that the war effort is taking place in a foreign country which obviously creates evidentiary issues, it may be some time before the full extent of contractor fraud and abuse becomes publicly known. Nonetheless, given the amount of no-bid contracts, this proves to be a major problem.
We support any effort to increase criminal penalties for those who exploit the war effort and obviously would encourage greater, not fewer, False Claims Act cases directed at such fraud and abuse. Billions of tax dollars are being spent on the war effort and most agree that billions are probably being lost to contractor waste, fraud and abuse. If contractor fraud continues to go unchecked in Iraq, the Government only invites more fraud. Accordingly, the whistleblower plaintiff’s bar should step up its efforts and utilize where applicable the government’s most effective tool in combating waste fraud and abuse in government programs: the False Claims Act.