In a continuing series of reports titled “Fraud on the Job," the KING 5 Investigators find fraud and abuse in the program that reserves millions in taxpayer money for disadvantaged contracting businesses owned by women and minorities.
In Washington, 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. The state’s share 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.
"Fraud on the Job" has already made an impact.
Two days after the first story aired, Gov. Chris Gregoire asked the Washington State Patrol to conduct a criminal fraud investigation into the abuses by certain companies documented in the series. In addition to the criminal probe, the governor ordered a top-to-bottom review of OMWBE by an outside investigator.
The director of the Washington State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises resigned two weeks after the series began.
KING 5 News has learned that the FBI and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation are looking into companies that benefited from OMWBE actions. One additional federal investigator has been assigned since KING 5 began airing its reports in late April.
Watch any story in the continuing investigative series "Fraud on the Job":
November 2012 - Caught cheating the government? No problem, keep the checks
July 16, 2012 - Minority contractors protest state's handling of road projects
June 15, 2012 - Minority contractor under fire speaks out
June 8, 20120 - Discrimination alive and well in public works projects
April 26, 2012 - KING 5 story prompts governor to call for criminal investigation
April 23, 2012 - State officials ignore fraud, waste in minority contracting program