Accountability

Whistleblower protection improvement passes Congress

Daniel Akaka

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.”

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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Reader comments

Fri, Nov 16, 2012

With wasteful and abusive spending rampant at the local DOD installation level it all adds up to one big dollar amount of needless spending of ALL OF OUR tax dollars.

Thu, Nov 15, 2012

They can put in all the theoretical protections they want. And while you won't get fired or moved to loading dock any more, as a practical matter, unless you can blow whistle in an anonymous fashion (usually impossible, since management knows everyone involved), speaking up adds another layer to glass ceiling over your career progression. You aren't a 'team player'.

Wed, Nov 14, 2012 TSA whistleblower Washington DC

Despite years of leading whistleblower advocate organizations Project On Government Oversight and Government Accountability Project lobbying Congress to write in a provision in this bill that would stop agencies from canceling out whistleblower protections using their unclassified secrecy regulations and/or rules, i.e., the Transportation Security Administration's "Sensitive Security Information": http://www.pogo.org/resources/whistleblower-issues/wi-wp-20110629.html http://www.whistleblower.org/storage/documents/An_Open_Letter_to_President_Barack_Obama_and_Congress.pdf No such provision made it into the final bill. This is evidence that both the House and Senate UNANIMOUSLY agreed with the Republican coauthor of the House version, Rep. Todd Russell Platts, that no such provision was needed due to the fact that such protections have been in place for over three decades: "[the Civil Service Reform Act] has been the law since 1978, and it continues to be the law." http://1.usa.gov/SVSFMo

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