Whistleblower protection improvement passes Congress
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who is retiring at the end of the 112th Congress, pressed for better whistleblower protections for 10 years.
Legislation to protect whistleblowers in federal agencies has passed both houses of Congress and is heading to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which improves protections for federal employees who call attention to waste, fraud and abuse within their agencies, passed the Senate on Nov. 13. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the bill’s main sponsor, expressed his satisfaction at seeing the bill pass just before his planned retirement from the Senate in January.
Read the bill text here.
“I have worked on this legislation for over a decade, most recently as chairman of the federal workforce subcommittee, and I truly thank my colleagues for enacting this important legislation at this time,” Akaka said in a written statement. The bill, introduced by Akaka in April 2011, had originally passed the Senate in May 2012. The House approved the bill with minor modifications in late September; the Senate then passed the revised measure by unanimous consent.
The bill clarifies that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse, and codifies the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988.
The bill also establishes Whistleblower Protection ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights and provides the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file "friend of the court" briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.
Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, was also pleased to see the bill pass.
“This opening salvo to the lame duck [session] shows that Congress can put aside partisan posturing and deliver more government accountability to the American public,” she said. “These hard-fought reforms will substantially improve the status quo for federal whistleblowers and taxpayers.”
Michael Hardy is the online managing editor of FCW. Connect him on Twitter: @MichaelHardyFCW.