House panel approves whistle-blower, transparency bills

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. Feb. 15, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved two bills Feb. 14 that would give federal employees who expose wrongdoing new protections and impose new restrictions on awarding federal contracts.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (H.R. 985) would establish new procedures to prevent retaliation against federal employees who report wrongdoing to authorities. The other measure, the Executive Branch Reform Act (H.R. 984), seeks to increase transparency and limit the influence of special interests in the executive branch.

The whistle-blower legislation would also ensure protection for employees of government contractors when they report waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money. Existing legal protections for these employees are deficient, and workers often fear that reporting abuses will cost them their jobs, according to the committee.

The Executive Branch Reform Act would bar executives who worked for private contractors from awarding contracts to their former employers after they enter government. It also would close loopholes in the law that govern when government procurement officials can be hired by companies to which they awarded contracts. Similarly, the bill would require administration officials to report meetings with lobbyists.

Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sponsored both bills. The reform measure “promotes openness and accountability in government by banning secret meetings between lobbyists representing special interests and senior government officials,” he said.

The full House must consider both bills for final passage.

The National Treasury Employees Union today applauded the passage of the two bills.

“Becoming a whistle-blower is not an easy decision to make and NTEU is committed to ensuring that adequate protections are in place,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

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