Congress finally enacted much-needed upgrades to whistleblower protections for federal employees. The Project On Government Oversight is ecstatic to report that yesterday the Senate unanimously passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA, S. 743, as amended by the House). At long last, this important legislation is on its way to the President’s desk for signature.
POGO has been advocating for the critical reforms included in this bill for more than a decade. The WPEA will ensure protection for legitimate disclosures of wrongdoing, increase government accountability to taxpayers, and save billions of taxpayer dollars by helping to shed light on waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. This is a real victory for whistleblowers and taxpayers.
The WPEA closes arbitrary, judicially created loopholes and restores free speech rights. It expands coverage to a wider universe of government workers (including federal scientists and Transportation Security Administration officers). The new law also strengthens due process rights, ensuring fair judicial processes and practices. It provides compensatory damages for prevailing whistleblowers, incentivizing individuals to come forward. The WPEA also requires Inspector General Offices to designate Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency staff about whistleblower rights. Click here for more details on the reforms passed.
The fact that this Congress was able to pass the WPEA by unanimous consent in both Chambers demonstrates that our government is still capable of quashing partisan rhetoric and doing what’s best for the American people. This victory is clear indication that, with the election over, there is a real opportunity to move past hyper-partisan politics and focus on sound policies that create more government accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. The co-sponsors of this bill (and their hard-working staff) deserve a big thank you. POGO applauds longtime whistleblower champion and retiring Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and co-sponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and all the other co-sponsors for their tireless advocacy and enduing commitment to ensuring passage of the WPEA.
“This opening salvo to the lame duck shows that Congress can put aside partisan posturing and deliver more government accountability to the American public. These hard-fought reforms will substantially improve the status quo for federal whistleblowers and taxpayers,” said Angela Canterbury, POGO’s Director of Public Policy. “It has been a long time coming, but the federal workers now will have a better chance at real justice when they suffer from retaliation for exposing waste, corruption, and abuse. These courageous workers deserve no less for their service to us and our country.”
You may read the entire statement here.Suzie Dershowitz is a public policy fellow at the Project On Government Oversight. Follow @suziedershowitz