|House amendment offers more protection for whistleblowers|
By Elise Castelli
The House included enhanced whistleblower protections for federal employees as part of the stimulus package. The measure would protect all employees from reprisal for disclosing wrongdoing, even those who work at national security-related agencies.
An amendment to the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act adopts language the House passed in 2007. It would extend the protections to FBI and intelligence agency employees, Transportation Security Administration employees and scientists who speak out about research suppression. It also gives employees who are retaliated against the right to jury trial if administrative bodies do not take corrective action against their agencies within 180 days.
Good government groups applauded the move.
"That is one of the most important oversight provisions there could be," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. The original bill offered whistleblower protections only to state and local government employees. But enhanced protections for federal workers are needed to ensure they too will be protected when reporting waste, fraud and abuse under the $820 billion package, she said.
Whistleblower advocates hailed the move.
"For the first time, all federal employees will be protected when they expose waste, fraud and corruption in how federal tax dollars are spent," said Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. "Whistleblowers are the most effective way to detect and deter fraud."
The bill still has to be adopted by the Senate and signed by the president before the protections become law.