In this year’s set of legislative proposals forwarded to Capitol Hill, DoD and NASA have again requested changes to the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act (“PFCRA”) to create, in the government’s view, a more viable administrative remedy for fraud and false claims totaling less than $500,000. The administrative process would proceed similarly to the suspension and debarment process with a fixed administrative record and an administrative decision official within each agency. See proposed Section 805 in the Fifth Package of Legislative Proposals Sent to Congress for Inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.
PFCRA (Chapter 38 of Title 31, United States Code) was enacted in 1986 as a government wide administrative mechanism for combating small-dollar fraud. As it stands, PFCRA allows federal executive branch agencies, with Department of Justice (“DoJ”) approval, to address false, fictitious, or fraudulent claims and statements where the alleged liability is less than $150,000. At the time of its enactment, Congress considered PFCRA to be a remedy to DoJ’s declination to pursue criminal or civil penalties where the alleged fraudulent activity resulted in little to no financial loss to the government. Since then, however, PFCRA has been viewed by some government agencies, including the DoD, as being cumbersome to the point of making it impractical for government agencies to pursue a remedy under the Act. Indeed the purpose for the proposed amendments is to create an “effective” administrative remedy.