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Resource ID: #25579
Subject: Government
Source: KING-TV (Seattle)
Affiliation: 
Date: 4/23/12; 4/26/12; 5/8/12; 5/9/12; 5/17/12; 5/24/12; 5/31/12; 6/8/12; 6/15/12; 6/28/12; 7/3/12; 7/16/12; 11/1/12

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Description

KING 5 dedicated nearly a year to dig into the complex world of the federal minority contracting program. The program is intended to remedy past and current discrimination against minority and women-owned contracting businesses who want a shot at working on federal highway projects. But instead of fostering equal opportunity, KING found staggering fraud and abuse in the taxpayer-funded program. The investigative series titled “Fraud on the Job" was born. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for administering the program. WSDOT contracts with a small state agency, the Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE) to certify which contractors qualify as "disadvantaged business enterprises" or DBEs. They also make sure that once in, the companies aren't cheating or becoming too big to qualify. The state's share of billions of federal highway funds comes with some strings attached, including a requirement that a certain percentage of money spent on transportation projects be reserved for minority-owned firms. The results of the “Fraud on the Job” series were swift and extraordinary. Two days after the first story aired, the governor ordered the Washington State Patrol to conduct a criminal fraud investigation. She also ordered a top-to- bottom review of OMWBE. Two weeks later, the governor asked the director of OMWBE to resign. Another top manager quit and another was fired. Two of the companies KING exposed as defrauding the government were removed from the DBE program by the state. State and federal legislation is now being drafted to stop the cheating. And now the FBI and the Inspector General of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation are investigating.

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