Currently being considered in the U.S. Senate is a piece of legislation called the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 which claims to:
“…strengthen the rights of and protections for federal whistleblowers so that they can more effectively help root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. Whistleblowers play a critical role in keeping our government honest and efficient. Moreover, in a post-9/11 world, we must do our utmost to ensure that those with knowledge of problems at our nation’s airports, borders, law enforcement agencies, and nuclear facilities are able to reveal those problems without fear of retaliation or harassment. Unfortunately, federal whistleblowers have seen their protections diminish in recent years, largely as a result of a series of decisions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has exclusive jurisdiction over many cases brought under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).”
Legislation related to promoting the exposure of waste, fraud, and abuse within the federal government began most prominently in 1978 with the Civil Service Reform Act. This law created the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to help encourage disclosure of waste and fraud, as well as the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to handle causes related to prohibited personnel practices. This legislation was deemed largely ineffective as individuals still feared retaliation for whistleblower behavior, so Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) in 1989, which prohibited reprisal against employees who reveal waste, fraud, mismanagement, etc. The WPA was amended in 1994.
And now, 17 years later, Congress wants to amend it again.
The proposed Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act, which would cost $24 million to implement over the next five years, was introduced to Congress on April 6, 2011 by 14 Senators: Akaka, Collins, Grassley, Lieberman, Levin, Carper, Leahy, Harkin, Pryor, Landrieu, McCaskill, Tester, Begich, and Cardin.
There are 20 principle amendments proposed in the new version of the Act aimed at bringing clarification and enhancement of protection and rights for whistleblowers. Among these are revised penalties for retaliatory investigations, as well as a proposal for whistleblowers to have the right to a full hearing. The legislation would also require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and MSPB to annually report to Congress the number of whistleblower cases and the outcome of each. The bill would close the potential loophole that previously designated certain entire agencies exempt from the WPA and would revise previous regulations about the exclusive subject matter of the Federal Circuit. Additionally, there is a change to the current law which requires the existence of “irrefragable proof” to claim that a public official has violated a law; the new bill states that only “reasonable belief” is needed. The bill also aims to implement education initiatives to teach employees about their rights against retaliation as well as establish an ombudsman in each OIG office to act as an intermediary between the agency and its employees.
The full text of the bill can be found here.