Fighting Covid-19 Relief Fraud Will Depend on Whistleblowers

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US government unleashed billions of dollars of stimulus and aid programs into the economy, with a significant portion of these funds being obtained fraudulently. Now as federal authorities attempt to step up their enforcement against the bad actors, whistleblowers are going to have to step up in a big way. But will they be offered enough protection from retaliation?

Attorney General Merrick Garland on March 10 announced the launch of a new Covid-19 fraud enforcement task force to help recover government funds stolen during the pandemic. President Biden vowed to send billions of U.S. dollars to support Ukraine and to seize assets of Russian oligarchs who have benefited under the reign of Vladimir Putin. And last October, the Justice Department launched a civil cyber-fraud initiative to pursue cybersecurity breaches that jeopardize government programs.

These developments are good news for honest, law-abiding businesses that seek to compete on a level playing field.

However, when Congress opened the Treasury doors to flood the pandemic economy with over $6 trillion and approved billions of dollars for Ukrainian support, it failed to adequately increase spending to pay for additional anti-fraud watchdogs. Indeed, according to analysis by the Washington Post, federal oversight agencies essentially received about $1 in new money for about every $12,000 in coronavirus spending.

Accordingly, the existing agency personnel is now tasked with monitoring unprecedented levels of government spending. To compound concerns, the rush to pump funds into the U.S. economy and into Ukraine has forced the U.S. government to rely on pay-and-chase anti-fraud enforcement.

Law enforcement will—more than ever—need to rely on whistleblowers to supplement the limited resources of the government and to help ferret out evidence of wrongdoing—both in the U.S. and abroad. This increased reliance on whistleblowers will greatly benefit anti-fraud efforts, the business community, and the American taxpayer.

Here are three important reasons why.

Read the rest of this article by Joseph E. B. “Jeb” White is the president and CEO of Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting government programs and the financial markets from fraud.