With the 2013 legislative session underway, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that one of her top priorities is a bill that will enhance Florida’s False Claims Act and better protect taxpayers from false or fraudulent claims seeking money from the State of Florida. Senator John Thrasher and Representative Dana Young are sponsoring Senate Bill 1494 and House Bill 935, which would strengthen the office’s ability to protect taxpayers by enhancing its investigative and prosecutorial authority, including giving the office the power to issue subpoenas in non-Medicaid cases.
“Expanding our subpoena power and updating this important law will allow us to better protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money by stopping unscrupulous individuals or companies that seek to defraud the government,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“Providing the Attorney General’s Office with the needed investigative tools is essential to protecting taxpayers from the increasing costs of fraud,” stated Senator John Thrasher.
“This legislation demonstrates Florida’s continued commitment to preventing fraud against the government. With this bill, we will give the Attorney General’s Office the power they need to find those who seek to defraud taxpayers and hold them accountable,” stated Representative Dana Young.
The Florida False Claims Act authorizes a private person or “relator” who claims to have knowledge of fraud involving public funds to bring a sealed “qui tam” case on the state’s behalf. The Attorney General’s Office then has the opportunity to investigate the allegations, gather additional information, and intervene in and proceed with the case if appropriate.
While “qui tam” complaints are routinely brought in Medicaid cases, reports of non-Medicaid fraud against the state are increasing. These cases can include any individual or company that engages in business with the State of Florida and knowingly scams the state by inflating prices or otherwise obtaining unwarranted payments. The legislation would be the first significant enhancement to the Act since its passage nearly two decades ago and would provide the office with the necessary tools to independently verify the fraud allegations and make an informed decision on pursuing a “qui tam” case.