09.10.08

Leahy Amendment To Address Wartime Fraud Adopted By Senate Fraud Enforcement Measure Added To Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, September 10, 2008) – The Senate today adopted an amendment introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to extend the amount of time for the federal government to prosecute wartime contracting fraud, including fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The Senate adopted the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act (WEFA) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

 

Leahy introduced the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act in April.  The bipartisan legislation was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, in July, but the bill has not yet received a vote in the Senate.  If enacted in the defense authorization bill, the Leahy amendment would close a loophole in a World War II-era law that has allowed individuals and corporations to go unpunished for delivering defective products or overbilling for their services.

 

“For more than five years, America has been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet efforts to investigate contracting fraud during these wars continue to lag, in part because it is difficult to uncover fraud while these conflicts continue,” said Leahy.  “I am pleased the Senate has adopted this common-sense amendment.  We have an obligation to protect the public interest and taxpayer dollars during times of war.  Congress had done just that in past wars, and Iraq and Afghanistanshould be no different.”

 

The Leahy amendment updates a 1942 law that suspended the statute of limitations on contracting fraud during times of war and allowed the government to prosecute such cases up to three years after the end of a declared war.  It modifies the law to allow the prosecution of wartime fraud in conflicts that have been authorized by Congress, even though they aren’t declared wars, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In the last six years, billions of dollars have been awarded in contracts to companies that have delivered defective products, including unsafe bullet proof vests and faulty ammunition, to American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

 

The Senate is expected to continue debate on the defense authorization bill this week.  The Leahy amendment, pending in the Senate as the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act, would:

 

  • Suspend the statute of limitations for war contracting fraud when Congress has authorized the use of military force consistent with the War Powers Resolution, and apply current law suspending the statute of limitations to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Extend the statute of limitations from three to five years after the end of a war, consistent with the current statute of limitations for criminal offenses
  • Mandate that the tolling of the statute of limitations period must be an official act of the president with notice to Congress, or a concurrent resolution of Congress
  • Clarify that the term “war” includes Congressional authorizations for the use of military force consistent with the War Powers Resolution

Leahy’s statement on the Senate’s consideration of the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act follows.  For audio and video of Leahy’s statement on the Senate floor, click here.

 

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