Long Overdue Whistleblower Protections Finally Near?
by Gavin Baker
Sep 20, 2012
While the vast majority of public servants are competent and well-intentioned, problems can crop up in government (as in any large organization). To address those problems, we need strong transparency and oversight, including the courage of public servants themselves to step forward and blow the whistle. But currently, federal employees with knowledge of misconduct are discouraged from reporting it due to a lack of protections and fear of retaliation, including being fired. A whistleblower protection bill that would change this could be up for a vote in the House and Senate later today or tomorrow: the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA, S. 743).
The original Whistleblower Protection Act, last reauthorized in 1994, has been rendered ineffective by judicially created loopholes. For instance, a federal employee is not protected from retribution if s/he:
- Is not the first person to report the incident;
- Discloses related information to a co-worker or supervisor;
- Shares the results of a policy decision; or
- Reports the issue while carrying out job duties
Federal whistleblowers were nine times more likely to lose their jobs in 2010 compared to 1992, according to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). WPEA would help address this situation by enhancing protections and closing existing loopholes.
168 organizations, including OMB Watch and its partners at the Make It Safe Coalition, have signed on to an open letter to Congress in support of WPEA. In addition, the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that protects whistleblowers, just released a letter backing the bill, as well.
Whistleblowers protect us by exposing threats to public health and safety; in turn, we need to make sure that whistleblowers are protected. It’s essential that Congress move forward on these critical protections for whistleblowers and the public.
UPDATE (9/24/12): Congress did not act on the whistleblower bill last week. Stay tuned for further developments when Congress returns from recess.
UPDATE (9/28/12): The House acted while in pro forma session today and passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. All eyes now shift to the Senate.back to Blog