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Watchdog: Accountability

Some IGs slow to publicize whistleblower rights and protections

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Mark Tapscott,Watchdog,Homeland Security,USAID,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Whistleblowers,Accountability

Official watchdogs at three federal agencies are doing a poor job of spreading the word about the rights and protections available to federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and corruption.

The three include the inspectors general at the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Railroad Retirement Board, according to a report released earlier this week by the non-profit group Project on Government Oversight.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 requires the 72 federal IGs to appoint whistleblower ombudsmen and to disseminate information about the rights of whistleblowers in the federal workforce.

"Most of those IGs have utilized their websites to post clear and comprehensive information about the whistleblower ombudsmen," POGO said.

"However, several watchdogs — most notably, the IGs at the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Agency for International Development — have done little to publicize their ombudsmen online, and may be missing an important opportunity to inform agency employees of their whistleblower rights."

The report was prepared by POGO investigator Michael Smallberg and intern Michelle Li.

At DHS, IG auditors and investigators ferret out waste and fraud in a department with more than 240,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $60 billion.

But DHS workers presently find precious little information on the IG's web site about the whistle blower ombudsman or whistle blower protections.

That's about to change because, William Hillburg, a DHSIG spokesman, told the Washington Examiner on Friday that "a new whistleblower section will contain specific information about DHS-OIG’s whistleblower program, available services and contact information."

Sandra Hackworth of the IG's office of integrity and quality oversight is the whistle blower ombudsman, Hillburg said.

At USAID, the IG website had posted no information about its whistleblower ombudsman or whistleblower protections when the POGO report was published.

But Smallberg said the day after the POGO report appeared, the web site went live with a new section on whistleblower protection.

An internal IG staff web site had previously provided information about the ombudsman and protections, according to POGO.

No ombudsman has been appointed by the Railroad Retirement Board IG, even though, as POGO noted, it administers a program — railroad retiree benefits — that is "ripe for fraud and needs employees who aren’t afraid to blow the whistle when they see misconduct."

A spokesman for the RRBIG declined to comment to POGO and could not be reached by the Examiner.

Read the full report here.

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.
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Mark Tapscott

Executive Editor
The Washington Examiner

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