Senate Passes Georgia Taxpayer False Claims Act

ATLANTA (March 27, 2012) –The Georgia Senate today passed House Bill 822 by a vote of 42 to 0. Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. William Ligon (R-Waverly), this legislation aims to combat fraud in government programs and contracts.

“I am pleased by the passage of HB 822 in the Senate today,” said Sen. Ligon. “This legislation is designed to protect the taxpayers from having their money fraudulently stolen by those who are unethical and cheating the system.”

The Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act establishes civil penalties for any person or legal entity that commits or conspires to engage in certain fraudulent acts, including but not limited to:

  • Knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
  • Possessing property or money to be used by the state or local government and knowingly delivering less than all of that money or property;
  • Knowingly buying or receiving as a pledge of an obligation or debt public property from an officer or employee of a state or local government who lawfully may not sell or pledge the property;
  • Knowingly conceals or improperly avoids an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the state or a local government.

Individuals or entities found guilty of committing these violations will be liable to the State for a civil penalty of $5,000 to $11,000 for each false or fraudulent claim, plus attorney’s fees and three times the amount of damages which the state or local government sustains because of the violation. An individual who commits these violations will only be held liable for two times the amount of damages if he or she fully cooperates with government investigators and provides all known information about the violation within 30 days.

Under this legislation, the Georgia Attorney General may investigate alleged violations of this Act and impose a civil suit. The Attorney General may also delegate the authority to investigate and bring suit to a local government that has allegedly sustained damages because of the violation.

In addition, an individual may bring suit upon written approval by the Attorney General; however, the suit must be in the name of the State of Georgia or local government.

There are several limitations to civil actions under the Act. Public employers are not allowed to bring a civil action that is based upon allegations of wrong doing that the public employee or official had a duty to report or investigate. This also includes information that the public employee or official had access to as a result of his or her position.

The statute of limitations for civil actions brought under this Act is six years after the date of the violation was committed, or three years after the date when facts material to the right of civil action reasonably should have been known. However, no action may be filed more than 10 years after the date the violation occurred.

Additionally, this legislation also updates various provisions of the State False Medicaid Claims Act. These updates include adding definitions to the current code, redirecting certain proceeds from civil actions under this Act from the Indigent Care Trust Fund to the Department of Community Health and revising the statute of limitations for civil action under the Act.

HB 822 will now travel to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

March 27, 2012

For Information Contact:
Natalie Dale, Director
Shawna Mercer,Sr. Communications Specialist