A U.S. Senate committee has advanced Senator Claire McCaskill's legislation to strengthen accountability in government by bolstering protections for whistleblowers who raise the alarm about waste of taxpayer dollars.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously adopted McCaskill's Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act, which she introduced to bolster the rights of non-federal employees working under government funds-a category mostly made up of employees of government contractors. The federal government spent $536 billion dollars procuring goods and services from government contractors last year, and state and local governments contracted for billions more.
Pointing to the vital role whistleblowers play in disclosing waste and misconduct in the public sector, McCaskill today said that strengthening the protections of whistleblowers is critical to enhancing accountability and transparency in government
"Whistleblowers who raise the alarm about waste, fraud, and abuse should be commended-not punished," said McCaskill, a former prosecutor and Missouri State Auditor. "Whistleblowers are the unsung heroes of our fight to root out inappropriate and sometimes illegal behavior in government. This is a good step toward ensuring we're protecting them from being punished for their work to protect taxpayer dollars."
Under current law, when employees of government contractors blow the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse of federal taxpayer dollars occurring in the execution of a government contract, those whistleblowers are not afforded protections similar to those available to federal employees. McCaskill's legislation would provide contractor employees whose work is funded by the federal government, including subcontractor employees and grantees, similar protections as federal employees.
Similar provisions for contractor employees were included in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Bill for defense contractors and in the American Reinvestment Recovery Act (ARRA), in both cases as the result of efforts led by McCaskill. McCaskill's current effort would expand government-wide the protections she won for defense contractor and contractor whistleblowers carrying out work under the ARRA. McCaskill's legislation has support from a broad coalition of government accountability groups including the Project on Government Oversight, the Government Accountability Project, and the National Taxpayers Union.
McCaskill also expressed concern today about legislation introduced in the Missouri State Legislature which seeks to curtail whistleblower protections, saying she plans to reach out to state lawmakers and officials over the coming days to stress the importance of whistleblowers in rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Since arriving in the Senate, McCaskill has fought to protect whistleblowers and has emphasized the important role they play in uncovering problems in the government. In 2009, McCaskill won a major victory for federal employees when a provision that grants a right to a jury trial for many federal employee whistleblowers who have experienced prohibited reprisals was added to a bill being considered by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Whistleblowers played a key role in uncovering reports of unmarked and mismarked graves at Arlington National Cemetery. McCaskill then spearheaded the effort to reform management of Arlington, successfully passing legislation in December 2010 and recently getting a firsthand look at the cemetery, saying she was "encouraged" by progress being made to address oversight failures there.