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PRIDE Industries pays for false claims

By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Roseville-based PRIDE Industries has agreed to pay $400,000 to resolve allegations that it knowingly submitted false claims relating to a maintenance contract at a U.S. Army base in Texas. The local nonprofit organization, which provides jobs for people with disabilities nationwide, employed a large number of temporary, non-disabled employees between 2007 and 2010 at Ft. Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the statement, PRIDE Industries failed to count the hours of its non-disabled staff as part of its overall ratio. The maintenance contract at Ft. Bliss was part of the AbilityOne Program, which procures contracts for goods or services in order to provide employment opportunities to people who are blind or have other significant disabilities. Under this mandatory source program managed by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, a federal agency, contractors must ensure that 75 percent of all direct labor hours are performed by severely disabled employees. PRIDE reported false ratio numbers to NISH, the central nonprofit agency designated by the committee to help oversee the AbilityOne Program, as well as to the committee itself, according to the statement. According to Audrey Farrington, spokeswoman for PRIDE Industries, the settlement arose from a qui tam, or whistleblower, complaint and the company cooperated fully with the investigation. “The civil settlement brings to conclusion an investigation that began in 2009,” Farrington said. “PRIDE has voluntarily enhanced certain internal controls and compliance procedures.” In addition, PRIDE overcharged the Department of the Army under its maintenance contract by adding unallowable costs and charging too much for labor, according to the statement. “Providing jobs for disabled workers is a critical purpose of the AbilityOne Program,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West. “This resolution demonstrates that the Department will vigorously pursue government contractors who overcharge on their contracts as well as misstate the number of non-disabled workers they actually employ.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TobyLewis_RsvPT.