Georgia’s new state False Claims Act, effective July 1, 2012, extends well beyond most state “qui tam” laws. Qui tam laws are laws designed to allow citizens to make complaints on behalf of governments seeking to recover monies fraudulently obtained from the governments, most often in billing practices.
Importantly, the “Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act” expands the whistleblower law not only to any fraud or false claims against the state, but also all “local governments” in the state. The reach of the new statute extends to all spending by any Georgia county, municipality, school district, hospital authority, and any other political subdivision of any Georgia local government.
Similar to the federal False Claims Act, the new Georgia law provides rewards to “whistleblowers” of 15-25% of the government’s recovery in the cases in which the state intervenes, and 25-30% of the cases in which the state does not intervene. There have been several recent successful claims here in Georgia under the federal law recouping millions of dollars for the government.
The new Georgia whistleblower law also provides important “anti-retaliation” protections for employees of the state and of any entity that falls within this broad definition of “local government.” Any employee, contractor, or agent who is retaliated against “because of lawful acts done by the employee, contractor, agent, or associated others in furtherance of a civil action under this Code section or other efforts to stop one or more violations of this article” may recover double damages and any other relief necessary to make him whole (including reinstatement), as well as attorney’s fees. This is a very significant addition to the law for public employees who demand honesty in government.
You can read the new law (HB 822) at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20112012/HB/822
If you are aware of any false or fraudulent practice costing the taxpayers money, this new Georgia whistleblower statute provides protections to you in making that information public. As an attorney, I would be happy to assist any proposed whistleblower with making a claim under this statute. Call my office at 770-832-0300.