Management company settles for $18.4M after nuclear weapons plant staff fudged their timesheets

The firm 'fessed up to staff misconduct and avoided criminal liability

A company contracted to manage an Amarillo, Texas nuclear weapons facility has to pay US government $18.4 million in a settlement over allegations that its atomic technicians fudged their timesheets to collect more money from Uncle Sam.

Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS) has managed the Pantex Plant since July 2014 and for the following six years, some of its workers were alleged to have submitted false time sheets to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for hours they never worked.

Adding a few extra hours here and there may not seem like a huge deal, but the falsification of timesheets is considered a serious offense, and is often seen similarly to theft. It's a form of gross misconduct and can get most people fired, if caught.

Pantex is one of six nuclear production facilities in the country and is the US's primary site for the assembly, disassembly, and retrofitting of nuclear weapons.

While CNS also manages and operates the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, which was built to enrich uranium for the Manhattan Project, and fuelled the Hiroshima bomb, the settlement only concerns the false time recordings of a certain few Pantex production technicians.

The legal bit: per the settlement [PDF], CNS recognized that time sheets were "falsely recorded" and that the NNSA and Department of Energy should be reimbursed for the time they paid to the company. 

Delaware-headquartered CNS fessed up to the governing bodies after realizing the misconduct of their technicians, fired the offenders (among other, unnamed remediation efforts), and fully complied with the investigation. It got a pat on the back for its cooperation and transparency throughout the process.

The agreement shouldn't, however, be seen as an admission of False Claims Act liability.

"We will not tolerate the misuse of public funds by those who do business with the United States," said Brian M Boynton, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. 

"Today's settlement demonstrates that the Justice Department will ensure that government contractors fulfill their commitments particularly with respect to highly sensitive work on matters of national security."

"Taxpayers should never be on the hook for the cost of work that was not performed," said Leigha Simonton, US attorney for the Northern District of Texas. "Government contractors who misrepresent hours will be held accountable." ®

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