In the latest indication that the Government is on the lookout for false and improper contractor certifications, the Department of Justice has intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit against a Texas-based contractor involving the FAR lobbying restrictions.
According to a False Claims Act complaint filed by a whistleblower, Fluor Hanford Inc. and its parent company, Fluor Corporation, used federal funds for lobbying purposes, in violation of a FAR provision requiring Fluor to certify that it would not engage in lobbying with federal funds.
The whistleblower complaint alleges that Fluor held a prime contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, providing a wide variety of security, maintenance and operational services. As a condition to award, Fluor was required to certify that it would not use federal funds for lobbying activities (presumably, Fluor completed the standard lobbying certification at FAR 52.203-11).
According to the whistleblower, Fluor ignored the lobbying restrictions, and used DOE funds to push for increased federal funding for a facility at the DOE site where Fluor was working.
As is often the case in whistleblower suits, it was a former Fluor employee who made the alleged practice public by filing a qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit. In its press release announcing its intervention, the DOJ stated that it believes the allegations are “troubling and very serious,” and that the DOJ will now work to move the lawsuit forward.
The False Claims Act lawsuit against Fluor is another example of why contractors must complete their certifications carefully and take them seriously. All it takes is one disgruntled former employee to turn a questionable certification into a big False Claims mess.