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Whistleblowers fight misconduct

By Staff | Apr 29, 2011

The federal government is a massive enterprise. In any large organization, waste, fraud and assorted other deviations from proper conduct occur from time to time. Fortunately, many government employees believe public service to be a high calling and disapprove of those who do not. They often play an important role in bringing misconduct to the attention of those people both inside government and elsewhere who can help rectify the situation.

Employees who witness wrongdoing are sometimes reluctant to report these offenses because they fear retribution by co-workers or higher-level officials. That’s why it is important to have legal protections for those employees.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has been a leader in sponsoring legislation to protect whistleblowers. In 1989, along with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., he co-authored the Whistleblower Protection Act. It provides protection for federal employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies.

Unfortunately, over the more than two decades since that act became law the intent of this important legislation has been compromised. Grassley issued a statement early this month arguing that “whistleblowers are being denied the protections they should have under the law because of decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals and the general anti-whistleblower sentiment held by those in executive branch agencies.”

That’s why Grassley and Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced legislation to update the law.

“Whistleblowers are key to unlocking the secrets deep in the closets of our bureaucracy. They’ve helped me uncover untold amounts of waste, fraud and abuse across the federal government,” Grassley said. “This important update to the Whistleblower Protection Act will restore the congressional intent of the law and also includes a provision we worked out in the last Congress to provide employees in the intelligence community whistleblower protections for the first time.”

The goal is to ensure that whistleblowers are protected adequately throughout the federal government. The proposed legislation clarifies congressional intent. It also makes it more difficult for bureaucrats and judges to interfere inappropriately with attempts by whistleblowers to bring negative information to the attention of appropriate parties.

There is strong support in Congress for updating the Whistleblower Protection Act. According to Grassley, somewhat differing versions of bills doing so passed both houses of Congress in 2010. The Congress adjourned before a reconciliation of the bills could be completed and passed.

Farm News applauds the initiative Grassley has shown in keeping this important issue alive. Whistleblowers can be an important help in the never-ending battle to make government programs efficient, honest and waste-free. Congress should make passing the updates Grassley and his colleagues have proposed a high priority this year.

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