Four auditors who monitor leases for oil and gas on federal property say the Interior Department blocked their efforts to pursue more than $30 million in fraudulent underpayments of royalties for oil produced in publicly owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The auditors brought their suits under the False Claims Act, which was created to allow individuals to expose fraud against the government. As explained in the New York Times article of September 21, 2006, people who successfully recover money for the government in such cases are entitled to a portion. A losing company is required to pay triple the amount of recovered money as well as back interest — potentially more than $120 million in the cases brought by the auditors.
The auditors contend that they had no choice but to go outside the agency because their supervisors ordered them to “cease work” on five separate investigations and drop their claims.