In tough economic times, whistleblowers play an even more vital role in exposing corporate misconduct and saving taxpayer dollars--but U.S. legislation is still failing to protect a massive segment of people working for the government: contractors.
Whistleblowers have saved taxpayers more than $27 billion since 1987 through the False Claims Act (FCA) award program. However, this program offers no protections to whistleblowers who witness waste, mismanagement and other illegalities, POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury will tell a Senate subcommittee today in a hearing.
The purpose of the hearing was to review the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 241), which was introduced this year by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jim Webb (D-VA). The new legislation is modeled after the whistleblower protections in the Recovery Act, which has been largely successful in preventing fraud.
“S. 241 would ensure strong protections for those on the front lines against waste, fraud, abuse of taxpayer dollars and threats to public health and safety,” said Canterbury. “This is extremely effective public policy.”
Canterbury added that there are “countless” examples of contractor whistleblowers who have taken great personal risk to protect the public and expose waste. The new act would bridge the gaps in current coverage, and comprehensively apply protections to all federal funds recipient whistleblowers.
POGO has suggested a few improvements to S. 241, which can be found here. For example, more reporting by the Inspectors General and Government Accountability Office would help Congress conduct oversight of the new provisions. Additionally, those companies covered by the legislation should be required to post notices of whistleblower rights at work sites.
POGO would also like to see the incentives for whistleblowing expanded. Back in 2006, when Congress created a new minimum award for the IRS program to ensure more quality tips, the number of tips more than doubled.
Every day, Members of Congress have a lot of difficult financial decisions to make in order to keep the U.S. economy afloat—but supporting protections and incentives for whistleblowers isn’t one of them. It’s a safe, high-return investment.
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.
Image via truthout.org.