Advocates Push Back on WaPo Bashing Whistleblower Protections

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Advocates Push Back on WaPo Bashing Whistleblower Protections

By Daphne Eviatar 2/3/09
The Washington Independent

I think I made the case pretty strongly in my piece today on why the failure of the stimulus bill to protect private contractor whistleblowers, and the omission in the Senate version to even protect federal employees, is a serious problem.

Now a coalition of good-government and whistleblower advocacy groups has written a powerful response to an editorial that appeared in The Washington Post on Monday bashing the entire purpose of including whistleblower protections in a stimulus bill at all.  According to that editorial, which I cited in my piece and has gotten lots of attention from others (including this terrific post from emptywheel), federal employee protections don’t belong in a stimulus bill at all.

Well, except for that thing called accountability?  Remember what happened when we had none in Iraq?

Today’s letter from the coalition, which includes such groups as the National Whistleblower Center, the Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains why whistleblower protections are critical to preventing waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money – noting that even the U.S. Department of Justice has said that whistleblowers were responsible for returning over $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury in 2008 alone.  And more than 5,000 corporations recently told PricewaterhouseCoopers that whistleblowers were the most effective means for detecting corporate fraud.

As the coalition put it in the letter:

If lawmakers reject these provisions, they will be sending federal employees a very strong signal: Keep your head down and don’t rock the boat. Employees know what happens to colleagues who step forward and expose waste, fraud and abuse in government.  Federal workers who have reported wrongdoing have lost more than 98.5 percent of cases at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals since 1994, when Congress last unanimously strengthened the law. During the entire Bush administration, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board ruled only twice that the whistleblower law was violated.

It’s time to end the culture of secrecy and guarantee that the federal workforce has our support in making sure our stimulus dollars are spent honestly and effectively.

With hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars planned to go out the door very quickly in this stimulus package, I would think we’d want to encourage all employees – whether of the federal government or private contractors – to vigilantly report any waste and fraud they discover in the process. Right?

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