Massachusetts is eligible for over $8.7billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Because the focus of Congress and state governments is on putting people to work, awarding contracts, and placing shovels in the ground quickly, the potential for mistakes is heightened. Following the lead of the Obama Administration, the AGO is working with the Patrick administration and other offices to promote two key goals: accountability and transparency.

On the Federal level, a Recovery.gov website is being maintained to explain and to document the ARRA, the allocation of funds, and the results of those expenditures. The Patrick Administration has set up a Massachusetts Recovery and Reinvestment website and each office within the administration has a section under the same logo, outlining its efforts under the ARRA.

The use of technology for communication is an important part of transparency. Working with the Patrick Administration, the AGO is well-situated to address many areas in which the potential for waste, inefficiency and potential fraud may exist and to help prevent those hazards.

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False Claims

The AGO has authority to enforce the Massachusetts False Claims Act. In Fiscal Year 2008, the AGO recovered over $51 million for Massachusetts cities and towns under the Act. In addition to civil penalties, there is the potential for criminal sanctions for filing a false claim.

 

Breach of Contract/Enforcement and Defense

Because the ARRA provides so much money to help jump-start our economy, it is quite possible that at some point we will encounter problems. A contractor may sue a state agency and claim that it is owed additional money for work that was more complex than anticipated. An agency may discover sub-par work and seek to sue a contractor for breach of contract or false claims violations. The AGO may discover evidence that a bid was awarded in violation of procurement laws, or as the result of ethics violations.

 

Bid Protests

Both bidding programs and compliance programs need to focus on identifying responsible contractors or grant recipients and holding them accountable. By identifying potential problems up front, we can prevent waste and inefficiency, as well as potential fraud. The AGO handles bid protests, and we will seek to resolve cases on an expedited basis.

 

Wage and Hour Laws

In addition to the work done by the Inspector General and Auditor, the AGO serves as the primary enforcement agency with respect to wage and hour laws, including the prevailing wage law, OSHA-10, the independent contractor law, and other relevant laws. These existing laws create a level playing field and provide appropriate protections for workers. Our office intends to send out investigators to respond to complaints and to conduct random spot-checks and audits to ensure that stimulus projects comply with these laws.

 

Environmental Crimes

The AGO enforces environmental laws that protect our air and water, preserve our wetlands, tidelands, and public open space, require the clean up of contaminated sites, and govern the use of pesticides and the handling and disposal of solid and hazardous waste. Assistant Attorneys General within the AGO and working with the inter-agency Environmental Crimes Strike Force, work together to assess violations and determine how to most effectively address them, secure site remediation, and prevent future violations.

 

Civil Rights and Employment

Federal Stimulus money must be spent in accordance with all non-discrimination and equal opportunity statutes and regulations. These laws include, but are not limited to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting race, color, national origin, religion, and sex discrimination in employment), the Americans with Disabilities Act (prohibiting disability discrimination in employment and in services provided by State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit agencies), and the Fair Housing Act (prohibiting discriminatory housing practices based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status), as well as any other applicable civil rights laws. The AGO enforces state and federal anti-discrimination laws and accepts and reviews complaints of employment discrimination.