The Make It Safe Coalition, representing dozens of groups from across the ideological spectrum, has announced its strong support for the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011 (WPEA), S. 743, re-introduced Wednesday. Federal employees are best positioned to disclose wrongdoing in order to protect taxpayer dollars and the public trust, but the law to protect federal whistleblowers is broken—the WPEA will go a long way toward fixing that system.
The WPEA will provide meaningful reform of government whistleblower law by ensuring legitimate disclosures of wrongdoing will be protected, reducing unauthorized leaks, increasing accountability to taxpayers, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars by helping expose fraud, waste and abuse. The WPEA will also restore and expand free speech rights, specifically covering national security and intelligence community workers, federal scientists and Transportation Security Administration officers; strengthening failed procedures; closing loopholes; and, for the first time, providing limited access to a jury trial.
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) re-introduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act with co-sponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Our groups thank these senators for their leadership in advancing this critical reform legislation.
The existing whistleblower law is supposed to encourage federal workers to come forward when they witness waste, fraud and abuse, but court decisions over the years and a flawed administrative process have eroded the law. Thus, the law now undermines instead of encourages good government practices.
Additionally, the federal whistleblower law is outmoded and has not kept pace with the standards in 11 laws passed since 2002 to protect private-sector whistleblowers. Today, it is well known in government that workers who use legal channels to expose waste, fraud or abuse are frequently often silenced, fired or demoted, perhaps for political reasons, and then have less than a one percent chance of fighting these actions and winning. So, although federal workers have risked their careers to protect the public and save taxpayer dollars, current law has failed to provide meaningful protection from retaliation. This legislation will go a long way to make the law functional for whistleblowers and taxpayers.
After several hearings and months of negotiations, versions of the WPEA passed the Senate and the House unanimously last year, but due to a last-minute secret hold in the Senate, the 111th Congress adjourned before it became law. Quick passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011 is an opportunity for this Congress to prove its commitment to tackling waste and increasing transparency and accountability to the American taxpayer.
The bill is on the coalition’s website here: http://makeitsafecampaign.org/news/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/wpea_2011_s743.pdf