Senate Fails to Pass Federal Whistleblower Law

Senate Fails to Pass Federal Whistleblower Law

Although the lame duck Congress did a good amount of work before closing for the year, and the session, not everything passed.  The Senate was unable to extend the protections for federal whistleblowers.  On the evening of December 22, the bill was put on hold.

The major difference between the two versions of the bill related to the inclusion of employees in the intelligence community.  Probably Wikileaks has something to do with it.  On the other hand, some whistleblowers who have suffered for speaking out argue that the new law would remove some of their existing protections, and leaves too much discretion in the agencies that engaged in the too-friendly behavior with contractors.

Whistleblower protection in the federal government should draw broad support.  The first law was enacted after the government discovered that contractors had charged for inferior supplies to the Union army, resulting in soldiers finding their boots falling apart or their food inedible.  The False Claims Act has given an incentive to whistleblowers identifying fraud on the federal government, in the form of a percentage of the recovery that the government reclaims from the fraudulent contractor.  It has anti-retaliation provisions as well.

There would seem to be little support for the opposition, other than from fraudulent contractors.  Yet, obtaining an effective whistleblower protection has been difficult.  In reality, many whistleblowers find themselves ostracized, threatened, fired, and otherwise mistreated for doing the right thing.  Moreover, many were denied the protections of the law when they discovered the fraud during the course of their regular duties, or when the government believed that the information provided was already known.

If the House and Senate versions are reconciled in the new session, a stronger whistleblower law will improve the way government operates by forcing the higher-ups to listen to people who would stop waste and fraudulent practices.

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