Earlier this week, a broad coalition of groups sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives, urging them to pass S. 372, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Over 90 groups have signed on to the letter thus far. As outlined in the letter, it’s absolutely imperative that this legislation, which reflects a true compromise between Senate and House versions of whistleblower reform, becomes law this year.
Protecting whistleblowers is a reform that has strong support across ideological lines. The groups on this letter are united in this urgent request that federal employees, the foot soldiers in the war on waste, fraud and abuse, get the protections they deserve. They must be able to fight back when they are fired, harassed or demoted in retaliation for their efforts to protect the public health and safety and taxpayer dollars.
Unfortunately, under current law the Merit Systems Protection Board rules against 99% of whistleblowers who file suit to defend themselves against retaliation. Fear of committing career suicide leads federal workers to become silent observers when they witness fraud, waste or abuse. Congress can and must enact a whistleblower reform law that ensures that federal whistleblowers who are punished for speaking the truth have the tools they need to fight subsequent retaliation, and win. Congress must significantly strengthen these protections, but time is running short. Passage of the pending Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372) must be a priority for the House in the lame duck.
We know that whistleblowers save money. Each year, whistleblower lawsuits under the False Claims Act save taxpayers nearly one billion dollars. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study of corporations globally found that employee disclosures were responsible for detection of more fraud than auditors, internal compliance officers, and law enforcement combined.
While S. 372 does not include every reform that our community has sought, it will dramatically improve the status quo—for whistleblowers and taxpayers.
With the passage of the S. 372 in the Senate by unanimous consent on Friday, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to enhanced whistleblower protections. The House could vote on this bill—which has the support of Representatives Towns (D-NY), Issa (R-CA), and Van Hollen (D-MD), the original sponsor of the House bill—as early as tomorrow. For its part, the White House has indicated that President would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
However, a few naysayers are spreading disinformation and threatening to derail the bill. POGO and allies in the Make It Safe Coalition have addressed the challenges to the bill, and a group of whistleblowers spearheaded by Robert MacLean—which includes Frank Serpico, Glenn Walp, Franz Gayl, and dozens of others—have also responded.
We still need one thing—we need you to add your voice. Please take a moment to write your Representative, and tell them to vote YES on S. 372. Thank you!