The Senate and the House both overwhelmingly passed legislation in 2007 that would strengthen protections for whistle-blowers who report waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies. Unfortunately, efforts to reconcile the House bill, H.R. 985, and Senate bill, S 274 in a conference committee have failed so far.
As the Hartford Courant recently noted, Connecticut’s Joseph I. Lieberman is one of four Senate negotiators and is in a good position to reconcile these two bills. As the Government Accountability Project has pointed out in a side-by-side comparison the Senate and House bills, these two bills are not that different, although the House bill provides slightly more protections.
As the Hartford Courant notes, currently, the protections granted to whistle-blowers in the private sector are far greater than protections granted to whistle-blowers in federal agencies. These “federal” whistle-blowers are too often subject to intimidation and retaliation, including being fired and demoted. These employees can seek relief from the Merit Systems Protection Board or the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, but a majority them lose. On the website www.whistleblower.org, the proposed Amendments to the Whistleblower Protection Act are listed, as well as the reasons why these Amendments are necessary.
Frankly, these amendments – granting greater protections to whistle-blowers in federal agencies – are something that we should all be pushing for. When federal workers report waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies, they are standing up for taxpayers. Our laws should protect them when they do this. Since, as the Hartford Courant notes, the protections offered under the original Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the 1994 update often do not work as intended, these amendments are necessary. Hopefully Mr. Lieberman can assist legislators in reaching a compromise between these two bills.