Congresswoman Jackie Speier Introduces Bill to Encourage Whistleblowing by Contractors

9/14/2012

WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced bi-partisan legislation with Congressman Todd Platts (R-PA) that would create protections from retaliation for government contract workers, who are non-federal employees, when they report incidences of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

The Non-Federal Employees Whistleblower Protection Act, H.R. 6406, encourages internal reporting by contract employees who identify and expose inefficiencies in federal programs and misconduct by government and contract workers. It also provides protections to workers that report wrongdoing to oversight officials and Congress. The bill is a companion to legislation introduced in the Senate by Claire McCaskill (D-MO) who is a champion of whistleblower protections.

"The assault on taxpayer dollars by the bloated contracting industry has gotten out of hand and it’s time for accountability. It is the workers on the front lines who are best suited to identify and expose misconduct, but contract workers are the most vulnerable to termination and the risk of career ending retaliation is currently too great for most non-federal employees to blow the whistle on their employer or contract manager,” said Speier.

“This legislation would make the federal government more open and accountable to the citizens it serves,” said Congressman Platts. “The time is long past due for meaningful protections for contract workers who have the courage to blow the whistle, at the risk of their own careers, on waste, fraud and abuse within the government,” said Platts.

The nonpartisan Commission on Wartime Contractors estimated that by 2011, taxpayers lost $60 billion to defense contractor waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A contract worker in Iraq, James Brady III, reported $80 million in fraud by the major defense contractor that employed him. In sworn testimony, he alleged that the company made illegal payments to a Turkish subcontractor with money that was intended to support troops in Iraq. Mr. Brady was terminated for blowing the whistle under the guise of missing a conference.

“We need more James Bradies, not less,” Speier said.

The Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act would have enabled him to share critical information about his employer both internally and with the military without fear of reprisal.

“Our legislation encourages badly needed accountability of taxpayer dollars. Whistleblowers also need protection for exposing safety concerns neglected by either the government or the contractor that manages a government program,” explained Speier.   

As reported by the Jacksonville Daily News, psychiatrist Kernan Manion, who was hired by a government contractor to provide care for service members at Camp LeJeune, reported to military officials that two of his post-deployment patients were unsafe after suffering episodes of psychotic rage. He was concerned for their safety and the safety of everyone at the base. His complaint was ignored and the government contractors who employed Dr. Manion demanded he cease communication with government officials.

After two months of inaction, Dr. Manion reported the medical center’s lack of safety protocols to the Department of Defense’s inspector general. He was terminated two days later.

“Dr. Manion bravely risked his career and reputation to protect the public interest. Shamefully, he was fired in return. We need more whistleblowers like Dr. Manion, not less,” said Speier.

 “We introduced the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act to encourage the truth tellers to speak up and help us hold government and contractors to the standard taxpayers deserve,” Speier concluded.

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H.R. 6406 – The Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act

Encourages Internal Reporting – This bill provides protection for complainants that report waste and wrongdoing to their managers, as well as to Congress, Inspectors General, the Attorney General, the Comptroller General, courts, federal agencies, and state and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

Protects Subcontractor Employees – Current Defense Department protections for whistleblowers only apply to employees of the prime contractor.

Includes Time Limitations in Response to Complaints of Retaliation – The Inspector General must make a determination about the merits of a complaint in a timely manner unless the whistleblower agrees to an extension. This limitation allows complainants to pursue other administrative or legal remedies instead of waiting for the evidence to become stale while the Inspector General considers their case while keeping the Inspector General’s discretion over its investigations and priorities largely intact.

Provides Whitsleblowers with Access to Investigative Files – The complainant will have access to the Inspector General’s investigative file unless release of that information is prohibited by federal law.

Creates More Contractor Accountability for Retaliation – Contractors litigating claims under federal whistleblower laws will no longer be allowable costs to taxpayers unless the contractor is found not to be liable for the claim. Additionally, the bill requires a revision of the Federal Acquisition Regulations for contractors to notify their employees of their rights and remedies under this Act.

Bill text is available here.