Reporting Waste, Fraud, or Abuse in Georgia

I began my search to see if there was a single hotline phone number in Georgia to report waste, fraud, or abuse for any reason, about any state office or program, regardless of type.

Now, I am not sure how much money the State of Georgia allocates for the investigation and prosecution of these crimes, but at least I assumed a single phone number with options like “For Health Complaints, press 1; for Transportation complaints press 2; for State Patrol or State police complaints, press 3; for other State Government offices, press 4; for all other state complaints, press 5″…or something similar to it. But other than possibly the Office of Inspector General, what I found were the following several different phone numbers for a limited number of reasons:

  • If you see fraud, waste or abuse in state government, call the taxpayers’ watchdog, the Inspector General’s confidential hotline 1-866-HELP-OIG, or visit www.oig.ga.gov.”

  • Reporting Mortgage Fraud and Common Mortgage Fraud Schemes. Mortgage fraud is a sub-category of Financial Institution Fraud (FIF).

    There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud—fraud for profit and fraud for housing.

    • Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

    • Fraud for housing: This type of fraud is typically represented by illegal actions taken by a borrower motivated to acquire or maintain ownership of a house. The borrower may, for example, misrepresent income and asset information on a loan application or entice an appraiser to manipulate a property’s appraised value.

  • The State of Georgia Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption in the State of Georgia’s Executive Branch agencies. Call (866) 435-7644 or submit a complaint online.

  • Georgia Environmental Finance Authority was established to report crimes related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 even though the program has ended. Please be specific on how the funds related to the entity/program you are reporting is related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (to include others who may have specific information and/or documents related to your allegation). The ARRA was estimated to cost $787 billion saving 1.6 million jobs over 4 years or about $122,970/job/year.

  • Medicaid Program Integrity – This business unit is responsible for contract oversight, special investigations, recipient investigations and clinical teams. It handles intake and triage of cases before turning them over to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) of the Georgia Attorney General’s office. The purpose of the Medicaid Program Integrity unit is to guard against fraud, abuse and deliberate waste of Medicaid Program Benefits. Medicaid Program Integrity ensures that Georgia taxpayer funds are used in a responsible manner. The unit also has oversight of state and federal funds.

  • Medicaid Fraud Control Unit – The mission of the Georgia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is to serve the public, to uphold and enforce the law, to investigate and prosecute fraud and abuse by providers in the Georgia Medicaid program and to protect vulnerable patients from abuse.

  • Peach State Health Plan – Peach State Health Plan is committed to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting those who commit health care fraud. Peach State Health Plan’s Vice President of Compliance has overall responsibility and authority for carrying out the provisions of the compliance and WAF programs. If you suspect or witness health care fraud committed by a provider, member, or employee, please call Peach State Health Plan’s anonymous and confidential hotline at (866) 685-8664.

  • Georgia Forestry Commission – If you are a member of the public or an employee of another agency, please use this form to report your concerns. You may also contact the GFC’s HR Director who serves as the agency’s Ethics Officer at 678-476-6224 or at HR@gfc.state.ga.us.

  • Georgia Department of Education – Unfortunately, this is only limited to school employees – Employees at the State Schools will report any known and/or suspected fraud, waste, and abuse of resources to GaDOE officials.

  • The Georgia Collaborative Administrative Services Organization (ASO) is a partner with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities (DBHDD) that facilitates the provision of integrated behavioral health and developmental disabilities supports and services to more than 200,000 Georgia residents statewide.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud – SNAP fraud is when (a) SNAP benefits are exchanged for cash. This is called trafficking and it is against the law; (b) SNAP fraud also happens when someone lies on their application to get benefits or to get more benefits than they are supposed to get; or (c) SNAP fraud also happens when a retailer has been disqualified from the program for past abuse and lies on the application to get in the program again.

  • Reporting Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in HUD programs – If you are aware of fraud, waste, and abuse in HUD’s public housing and/or housing choice voucher (HCV) programs, fill out the OIG Hotline Complaint Intake Form.

  • How to report Medicare fraud – You can report suspected Medicare fraud in any of these ways: (a) Call us at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Office of the Inspector General. (c) Call the Office of the Inspector General at 1‑800‑HHS‑TIPS (1‑800‑447‑8477). TTY: 1‑800‑377‑4950.

References to articles, sources, products, or services are not a specific endorsement and not guaranteed to be true or accurate, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the information provided is valid, or the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others. Be careful – if it sounds too good, it probably is!

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Loopholes for Low Income Housing

To stimulate low income housing availability, the US government provides a number of tax credits to the states to distribute to property developers at their discretion following certain criteria including development projects that cap rents for some of the units. However, under odd rules, the developers can sell these credits to banks or other investors. A 2000 study revealed the value of the rent savings to tenants amounted to approximately 35% of the total tax credits. A 2005 study revealed that about half of the units would have been produced without the tax credits. A 2010 study revealed 100% of the development subsidized by the tax credits came at the cost of other developments. In 2017, a Miami area business stole $34 million from 14 low income credit housing projects when they submitted inflated construction cost information to the government. Furthermore, NPR said there is very little public accounting of the costs are actually performed. A 2005 study revealed that increased housing regulations have doubled the costs of construction in many cities.

With all this information revealed, the Senate Finance Committee met this summer in an attempt to “expand” the program. Senators must be led by lobbyists rather than facts.

Is it time to “kill” the loopholes for public housing and try something else?

Source: WSJ, 9-19-2017, Page A17

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The Most Common Questions Asked by Home Buyers—Answered!

These are some of the most asked questions and answers I have fieldeed…good job Realtor.com.

    Q: What home can I afford?

    Q: How many homes should I see before making an offer?

    Q: What do you think the seller will accept as a fair price?

    Q: How do I know if the property is a good deal?

    Q: How quickly can I close?

    Q: Should I get a home inspection?

    Q: When can I back out if I change my mind?

    Q: Can I buy a home and sell my current one at the same time?

I would also add that a ball park calculation on the price of house you can afford, you shouldn’t pay more than 30% of your monthly income on a home mortgage payment. Any higher percentage leaves you with fewer dollars for emergencies and other lifestyle expenses.

References to articles, sources, products, or services are not a specific endorsement and not guaranteed to be true or accurate, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the information provided is valid, or the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others. Be careful – if it sounds too good, it probably is!

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“Normal Wear and Tear”

Real estate: What is normal wear and tear?

The real answer is: It all depends….and take lots of “Pre” move in and “Post” move out photos!

What might be interpreted as small scratches on a door handle might otherwise be considered property damage by the landlord, depending on the terms of your lease and conditions before your move-in and after your move-out. Typically something minor won’t be held against you, but lots of minor things add up to major repairs.

Atlanta Fox 5 News Interview with Real Estate Expert John Adams. He said that “normal wear and tear” is not legally defined but determined by each case. So be sure to video the before and after conditions of your residence.

References to articles, sources, products, or services are not a specific endorsement and not guaranteed to be true or accurate, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the information provided is valid, or the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others. Be careful – if it sounds too good, it probably is!

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How many work type VISAs does the US offer?

In other words – how many ways can terrorists enter the US under the protection of a Visa?

About 185 different types of immigration exist in two main categories of U.S. visas:

(a) Non-immigrant visa – temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work or studying.
(b) Immigrant visas – people to immigrate to the United States.

Here is the link to all the different typs of visas.

Here are some explanations of a few of the 11 different Temporary Worker Visa categories:

O Visa: Short-term work visas are available to certain people doing specialized work, including the O visa for outstanding workers in the sciences, arts, athletics, education, or business. But how often are the Visas checked for return to another country or possibly renewed? And does this prevent American citizens from being employed or is this another way to import cheaper labor in high paying salary levels? Oh, and did I mention there is no limitation on the numer of this type of Visa issued?

EB-5 Visa: “Permanent residency” (green card) is given to those “foreign (non-US investors) who promise to invest in businesses or land development that stimulate employment to make a business or land development investment of at least $500,000 in blighted areas and $1,000,000 in other areas….as well as “Plan” to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Nothing about if the plans fall through… There are a total of 10,000 EB-5 Visas allowed each year to be issued or renewed.

H-1B Visa: H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations for up to six years. Obtaining an H-1B visa, which is allocated through a lottery system, has become increasingly hard in the past few years. The Department of Homeland Security currently caps the amount of H-1B visas granted at 65,000 per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for applicants with advanced degrees. Last year, DHS received an overwhelming 233,000 H-1B petitions in as little as a week; only a little over one-third of petitioners received one of the sought-after visas.

B-1 Visa:

  • consult with business associates
  • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • settle an estate
  • negotiate a contract.

P-1 – P-2 or P-3 Visas: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment Group. To perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an entertainment group. Requires an internationally recognized level of sustained performance. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.

Q-1 Visa: Participant in an International Cultural Exchange Program. For practical training and employment and for sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country through participation in an international cultural exchange program.

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When does an HOA expire?

The State of Georgia actually has two forms of associations for subdivisions with fee simple homes: Homeowner Associations (HOAs) and Property Owners Associations (POAs). They are similar in many respects, except that a Property Owners Association is created by (the 1994) statute.

Prior to 1993, Georgia law at the Official Code of Georgia – Code Section 44‑5‑60 generally provided that a community’s CCRs (Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions) automatically expire after twenty years. One of the extremely important benefits of the POA is that it has a provision that states Code Section 44‑5‑60 shall not apply to any covenants contained in any instrument submitted to the POA.

Also, even though some Georgia courts have held that covenants in communities that were recorded prior to 1993 do not receive the benefit of the new 1993 law, there are cases where the obligation to pay assessments does not expire.

The Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act (“POA”) was adopted in 1994 to expand the powers of homeowners associations. The POA does not, however, apply automatically. Instead, the developer of a community or the members of a community’s homeowners association must “opt-in” to be governed by the POA. The “opt-in” process generally takes place either by the developer when the developer initially creates the declaration of covenants for the community, or by the members of the homeowners association through an amendment to the declaration.

The specific amendment process within a community’s declaration of covenants must be followed for the “opt-in” to occur. Most HOA CCRs provide for the voting of at least 2/3 of all members to enact any amendment to the HOA CCRs.

Potential benefits:

  • After submitting to the POA, the association will no longer be required to file liens at the county courthouse for unpaid assessments or other charges. Instead, the POA creates an automatic statutory lien against a delinquent owner’s lot.
  • if the automatic statutory lien is not paid at the closing, the association can proceed against the new owner who will be personally liable for all amounts owed prior to the closing.
  • allows the association to charge a late fee of the greater of $10.00 or ten percent (10%) of the amount due, and interest at a rate of ten percent (10%) per annum on unpaid assessments and charges.
  • authorizes the recovery of the association’s costs of collection of the delinquent assessments, including reasonable attorney’s fees actually incurred.
  • to the extent provided in the declaration of covenants, a board may specifically assess expenses to an owner if the conduct of the owner or the owner’s tenants or guests caused the expense.
  • POA also clarifies that all owners and tenants (i.e., people who rent a house in the community from the owner) must comply with all the provisions of the declaration of covenants and the association’s rules and regulations.
  • gives the association a statutory power to assess fines against violators and to suspend the common area use rights of violators, provided the ability to fine and suspend are stated in the declaration of covenants.

Source 1: The reasons why a community should adopt the Georgia property owners’ association act.

Source 2: Georgia Property Owners’ Association Act discusion by Weissman, Nowack, Curry and Wilco.

Source 3: The Georgia POA Act and Your Association.

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Water Saving Plumbing Fixture Regulations in Georgia

So far…in the metro Atlanta area, I know of only one county in which the “low-flow” plumbing fixtures is necessary – Dekalb County. Depending on water usage with future growth, I anticipate more counties will institute regulations and move toward water saving fixtures

They are necessary in Dekalb County (see the county ordinance describing requirement) for one major reason…you will not be able to establish water service with the local water authority unless an inspector or plumber has certified, in writing, that the bathrooms in the home have been properly fitted with working low-flow water fixtures (i.e., faucets, shower heads, and toilets).

Source of inspiration for blog post: California’s replacement And Disclosure Of Plumbing Fixtures Required.

Dekalb Code.

Dekalb County Water Department water fixture requirements.

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Some reasons to list your home for sale with an agent

For those of you who ….have plenty of time on your hands to deal with all relevant details of a real estate transaction from knowing if the Buyer is qualified understand real estate contract law; knowledge about home warranties; pest control; home inspections; contract negotiations; or allowing the general public freely roam about your home without you following them around and making them feel uncomfortable sharing their thought about the home, come in to see your home.

If you are in a hurry and are relocating to another part of the country, an agent can assist with details of transaction while you focus on the employment and move.\

If you never sold a house before and are not comfortable with the process.

If you are uncomfortable about showing your home by yourself to perfect strangers or anyone who stops by to see the house. Are you sure they are qualified, legitimately looking to purchase a house and not scouting the house for valuables to be stolen later.

If you’ld rather spend time doing something else besides answering several unqualified callers’ questions about your house and how low a price you would take.

If you’re thin skinned and will be offended by a personal comment regarding your taste in paint color, floor choice, or other decorating decision.

If you dislike the process of negotiations back and forth with a purchaser.

I’m sure you may even think of more reasons. Also, some people have the ability to deal with the entire transaction themselve, but not everyone.

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Official Georgia Wood Infestation Inspection Report

Under the Georgia Structural Pest Control Act of 1955, the Structural Pest Section (SPS) under the Georgia Department of Agriculture licenses and regulates pest management professionals, specifically those engaged in the business of structural pest control in the state of Georgia.

The Official Georgia Wood Infestation Inspection Report is a regulated document used by licenses pest control companies for the purpose of certifying that a structure is apparently free from several types of wood destroying organisms as a basis for transfer of real property. Such document shall carry a guarantee that, if an infestation of wood destroying organisms from which apparent freedom is certified, is found within ninety (90) days from date of issuance, the infested structure(s) shall be treated by the licensee, free of charge subject to the following:

(1) Subterranean Termites – Structures will receive a full minimum adequate treatment
pursuant to Paragraph 620-6-.04. However, if a structure has received a full minimum
adequate treatment within the past one (1) year, a partial treatment may be made to at
least 10 feet in either direction of any and all areas of termite infestation except as
defined in Rule 620-6-.07(5).

(2) Powder Post Beetles and Wood Boring Beetles – Structures will receive a minimum
adequate treatment pursuant to Paragraph 620-6-.04(3).

(3) Wood Decaying Fungi – Structures will receive a minimum adequate treatment pursuant
to Paragraph 620-6-.04(4).

(4) Dry Wood Termites – Structures will receive a minimum adequate treatment pursuant
to Paragraph 620-6-.04(5).

Note: If you contact one of the Georgia Pest Control Companies who are members of the Georgia Pest Control Association to have them install or protect your home from some type of termite infestation, they might just write a protection agreement for only one of the types of pest infestation above – so be careful to understand the coverage.

Georgia State Rules and Regulations for Pest Control companies.

GA Wood Infestation Guidelines – Chapter 620-6 as of 8-24-2017

Official Waiver – replaced Form II – Effective 9-1-2017, this Official Waiver form replaced the Form II outlining restrictions of the pest control company with respect to coverage and protection.

References to articles, sources, products, or services are not a specific endorsement and not guaranteed to be true or accurate, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the information provided is valid, or the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others. Be careful – if it sounds too good, it probably is!

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IRS confusion over homebuyer tax credits – in 2010 and now?

According to some Federal Laws instituted during the 2008-2013 financial crisis run, there were two basic tax credits for first-time homebuyers to stimulate home purchases:

  1. First time homebuyers were offered a $7,500 (married) or $3,750 (single) “refundable” (meaning under certain situations it was to be paid back to the US Treasury in the form of $500/year lower income tax refund or increased payment due) tax credit or 10% of purchase price, whichever was lower. This applied to home purchases between April 9, 2008 and July 1, 2009 (where a purchase contract was signed prior to April 9. 2008).

  2. Since the first home buyer stimulus wasn’t very effective in generating new home sales, another $8,000 (if married and $4,000 if single) “nonrefundable” (it didn’t have to be paid back to the US Treasury) tax credit was established that waived (eliminated any possibility of recapture or payback to the US government). This applied to home purchases between December 31, 2008 and December 1, 2009.

SNAFU!
Source: Treasury Identifies Confusion in IRS Handling of Homebuyer Tax Credits.

Do you think the IRS has improved since 2010?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found in 2010 that the IRS did not have the ability to identify individuals who received a credit and later ceased using the home as their primary residence.

Do you think they do now?

Do you think they recovered all the false credit applications? No – I don’t either.

TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION Report in 2012 – During Tax Years 2006 through 2009, taxpayers claimed almost $470 billion in refundable credits. Due to post-refund examinations, taxpayers were required to repay more than an estimated erroneous refundable credits, the IRS plans to require them to repay more than an estimated $2.3 billion in erroneous credits. By the end of December 2011, the IRS had recovered an estimated $1.3 billion—-. While most of these weren’t for homebuyer tax credit, there were recommendations made in this report to require “proof of purchase” and not just taxpayer word.

References to products and services are not a specific endorsement, but the user must perform their due diligence and investigate whether the product or service is right for them. I welcome any or all comments that would help others.

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