Washington, D.C. February 9, 2009. Bunnatine (“Bunny”) H. Greenhouse, the highest ranking procurement official to oppose the no-bid, cost plus contracts to Halliburton for the reconstruction of Iraq, weighed in on the need for Congress to include real whistlebower protections as part of the stimulus-bailout bill (read her letter).
Ms. Greenhouse explained why strong whistleblower protection is essential to the stimulus bill: “Those who should have protested [awarding the Halliburton] contract remained silent. And their silence is not surprising because, as federal employees, we have no meaningful whistleblower protection! We can be fired for reporting fraud. We can lose our careers simply for doing our job and trying to protect the taxpayer.”
After blowing the whistle on the government’s failure to properly award multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts as the Iraq war was about to start, Ms. Greenhouse was removed from her position. Under existing law, she has no right to a jury trial and is barred from bring her whistleblower claims before a federal court. The Platts-Van Hollen amendment to the stimulus bill (Section IV of H.R. 1) corrects these legal deficiencies and would provide whistleblower rights to federal employees who object to “waste, fraud and abuse” in federal contracting.
Ms. Greenhouse, the former top civilian contracting official for the Army Corps of Engineers, stated, “The bottom line is that without access to independent courts, real judges and juries, whistleblowers don’t stand a chance, and fairness and transparency will not see the light day.” She is asking fellow Americans to contact their elected representatives and demand strong and effective whistleblower protections for federal workers in order to ensure that fraud in stimulus spending can be detected.
Recently the distinguished auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, concluded that strong whistleblower protection is critical to halting financial fraud. “Respected corporate auditors have recognized that insider disclosure is critical to ferreting out fraud. The weaker the protections, the greater the fraud. Federal employees have the worst whistleblower protection imaginable and unless stronger whistleblower protections are included in the stimulus bill an awful lot of federal tax payer dollars will be flushed down the toilet,” said Michael D. Kohn, General Counsel National Whistleblowers Center and Bunny Greenhouse’s attorney.
Greenhouse’s case received widespread national and international attention because she was the first and high-ranking government official to publicly expose problems with the Bush Administration’s Iraq war-contracting practices. When the Rumsfeld Defense Department stripped her of all contracting duties, major Congressional leaders protested, including former Congressman Rahm Emanuel and Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee Senator Byron Dorgan.
In a 2008 book, the PBS produces for the respected TV show “NOW” described Greenhouse as a “cogent whistleblower” who “believes that good government requires a certain amount of transparency, and that corruption is best deterred by accountability.”