The former employee of a California contracting firm that provided parts to NASA has been awarded $75,000 after filing a whistleblower lawsuit against his employer. Steven Walker reported fraudulent actions on the part of United Paradyne under the False Claims Act, which allows those who are aware of fraud against the government to file suit on the government’s behalf, and collecting between 15 and 25% of any settlement or judgment if their lawsuit is successful.
Mr. Walker filed his whistleblower in August 2017 in the Orlando federal court, reporting that his former employer had falsely certified that support equipment for a rocket launch system was in compliance with the space agency’s specifications. In response, the company agreed to a $375,000 settlement with the government, of which Walker will receive 20 percent.
U.S. Attorney’s Office Announces Whistleblower Award
Speaking on behalf of the Justice Department about the whistleblower award, Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said, “Violating NASA’s contractual requirements raises danger and risks to our space program and its personnel as well as harms the integrity of the federal contracting process. The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to enforcing federal law and ensuring a system of fair play for all government contractors.”
The equipment at the center of the whistleblower lawsuit was essential, providing power, fuel communications and other important applications for the new Space Launch System and Orion space capsule that the space agency has planned. The company was also responsible for maintaining a piece of equipment that allowed astronauts to access the capsule. According to the information Walker included in his claim, his employer had knowingly submitted false invoices for services that they had not rendered, including cleaning the equipment or verification that it was clean. He was aware of the fraud after having observed it as a facilities supervisor. Speaking of the settlement, an agent with NASA’s inspector general’s office said,
“The NASA Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate all whistleblower qui tam fraud allegations related to NASA operations and the building of the next generation space launch vehicle and related ground support equipment.”