The contracting of federal, state and local public works projects is a lucrative business.
Many construction firms and their subcontractors turn a handsome profit by bidding on and then completing these public projects.
New York taxpayers should remember that, in a sense, they are paying for every penny of these public projects.
Those who are on the inside of these projects, and have knowledge about what is going on, may sense an obligation to speak up for the fellow New Yorkers if they are aware of contractor fraud or other underhanded and illegal activity.
A would-be whistleblower should also know that they are doing their part to make sure their own tax dollars are being used well.
It is scary to be a whistleblower, but the law does protect those who come forward and may in some cases even offer financial incentives for doing so.
Fraud involving government projects takes many forms
Ways people and businesses try to game the public contracting system abound.
There are relatively obvious signs of unlawful activity which apply equally to public works projects as they do to other government contracts.
Bribery in its many forms, including lavish gifts, entertainment or favors, is always an abuse. Likewise, some of those involved in bidding may outright falsify information or invoices.
There have also been cases where different contractors coordinate their bids on a project so the government agency procuring work cannot possibly get the best price.
But there are more subtle schemes of fraud as well. For example, contractors may use inferior materials or deliberately cut corners with respect to labor.
They may also deliberately bid low knowing full well that they will have to raise the price through change orders.
Many times, it is only whistleblowers with knowledge of the facts who uncover these more subtle, and hard to spot, cases of fraud. If they do decide to come forward, they should make sure they understand all their legal options and protections.