Two US cargo handling firms have agreed to settle for $1.075m in a case where they were accused of making excessive charges and violating the False Claims Act in relation to shipments of humanitarian food aid.
The businesses – stevedores Jacintoport of Houston, Texas, and ocean transportation company Seaboard Marine of Miami, Florida – did not admit wrongdoing.
The US Department of Justice, alerted by a whistleblower from a contractor who dealt with Jacintoport, believed that the stevedoring firm was exceeding the rates it had agreed to in a contract with USAID.
Under the deal Jacintoport should have observed a cap on the rates for storage and delivery of food aid that is urgently needed around the world.
Instead, between January 2008 and October 2009, and under the supervision of its affiliate Seaboard, it inflated the cost to ocean carriers for loading 50,000 tons of the aid, according to the charge.
USAID is the US government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid.