On Wednesday, the Department of Justice Inspector General announced the creation of a new whistleblower ombudsman position -- and we think it’s a great idea. Although whistleblowers are on the front lines in the fight against government waste, fraud, and abuse, they aren’t always valued in the process of standing up for what’s right. (Just check out this recent clip from The Daily Show featuring whistleblower Thomas Drake’s story for evidence.)
Establishing this ombudsman position at Justice will make it easier for would-be whistleblowers to feel safe in coming forward and better ensure that when they do take that risk to tell the truth, their voices are actually heard.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, or WPEA (S. 743, H.R. 3289) (which the Project On Government Oversight strongly supports), would require each inspector general to designate a whistleblower protection ombudsman. While we continue to wait for the House of Representatives to pass this important legislation (the Senate passed S.743 with unanimous consent in May), the Justice Department's inspector general's actions serve as an important reminder to other inspectors general that they can proactively designate their own whistleblower protection ombudsmen.
Under the WPEA, the ombudsman’s role would be to educate and communicate with whistleblowers about their rights. The Department of Justice's whistleblower ombudsman will do just that. He or she will help whistleblowers make protected disclosures and monitor investigations of retaliation claims. The ombudsman will also see to it that whistleblower complaints are handled promptly and that cases don’t fall through the cracks.