Washington, DC — More federal employees are reporting waste fraud and abuse under President Bush’s tenure but fewer of these reports are being investigated, according to figures compiled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is charged with reviewing reports by federal employees of official misconduct and then overseeing investigation of credible charges. According to its latest figures –
· The number of whistleblower reports has nearly doubled since the 2001 fiscal year, going from 380 cases to a reported 535 cases in FY 2003;
· Barely one percent of these cases (11 of 1091) was referred to agency heads for investigation; and
· The backlog of pending whistleblower reports has more than doubled, to 690 from the backlog of 287 cases in FY 2001. By law, OSC is supposed to make a determination as to whether a report merits investigation within 15 days but this deadline is almost never met, with many matters left hanging for months or years.
“Time and again, whistleblowers have proven critical to protecting the public but their courage is wasted if their warnings just gather dust in a file drawer,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The only thing special about the Office of Special Counsel is its lack of speed.”
For the first time, OSC stopped reporting statistics specifically relating to reported reprisals against whistleblowers but from the information OSC recently made public, it appears that –
· Despite more than 2,300 pending complaints, OSC has not represented a single whistleblower in an enforcement action to remedy retaliation;
· More than 83 percent of surveyed federal workers with personnel complaints said they were dissatisfied with results obtained by OSC while Less than 7 percent expressed satisfaction; and
· After a decline, backlogs of pending personnel complaints are beginning to rise, even though OSC is investigating fewer cases than ever before: only 6 percent (162 of 2,385 pending matters) were accepted for investigation in FY 2003.
“This year, Congress failed to pass even modest reforms to the Whistleblower Protection Act due in large part to the opposition of the Bush Administration,” Ruch commented. “As it stands now, the protections for federal whistleblowers are a beacon of false hope for thousands.”