The Department of Energy is building a $17 billion vitrification plant at its Hanford site in order to turn 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into a stable glass form. The waste is left from the cold war production of plutonium for America's nuclear weapons program. The contract is cost reimbursable and projected costs have grown significantly over its initial budget.
A recent article appearing in the hometown newspaper, the Tri-City Herald, stated that the paper had obtained copies of emails sent to workers at the vitrification plant instructing them to preserve all information and emails regarding charging for labor, recording time worked, overtime and related matters. The article went on to not that the preservation request was related to a civil investigative demand issued by the Justice Department to the prime contractor on the project, Bechtel National (see Feds may be investigating timecard issues at Hanford vit plant for the complete article). We're not sure what types of timekeeping records might exist. The company uses an electronic timekeeping system and employees do not normally retain paper.
This sounds serious though. Another email from a Bechtel attorney instructed employees that if they were contract by federal investigators they could speak with them, they could decline to speak with them, they had a right to have their attorney present, or could request that a Bechtel attorney be present.
The Justice Department, the Department of Energy, and Bechtel all declined comment on the matter (of course).
There have been serious timecard problems among contractors at Hanford. In 2013, one contractor paid $18.5 million to resolve civil and criminal allegations of defrauding taxpayers through timecard fraud. Earlier this year, another contractor forked over $5.3 million to settle allegations of timecard fraud.