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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Joins in Urging Congress to Fund Whistleblower Protection Programs

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June 11, 2012

Senator Daniel Inouye, Chair
Senator Thad Cochran, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
Room S-128, the Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Representative Hal Rogers, Chair
Representative Norman Dicks, Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee
H-307, the Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Senator Tom Harkin, Chair
Senator Richard Shelby, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education and Related Agencies

Representative Denny Rehberg, Chair
Representative Rosa DeLauro, Ranking Member
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education and Related Agencies

Dear Chairmen Inouye and Rogers:

This letter is to urge you to provide $20,739 million that was requested by the Department of Labor for the Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs (OWPP), which is currently housed within the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Since 2000, Congress has passed twelve new whistleblower protection laws covering over 65 million workers that initially must be investigated and enforced by the OWPP.  Yet this office has not had a corresponding, or even meaningful, increase in resources for these additional responsibilities; as a result, OSHA cannot even begin work on much of their caseload until after legal deadlines for complaints that by statute must be resolved in 90-120 days.  The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded that OSHA is not complying with mandatory statutory requirements in 40% of cases, and fails to comply with the requirements of its own investigations manual for 80% of complaints. The OIG has estimated that 45-55 Full Time Employees (FTE’s) will be required to provide sufficient resources to enable OSHA to comply with the statutory deadlines, based on workload estimates provided by OSHA. The FY 13 budget request for OSHA’s whistleblower program is $4.8 million above the FY 12 appropriated level, and would allow OSHA to allocate  37 additional staff--which, based on the IG’s estimate of need, is modest to a fault.

We wish to emphasize that these tasks are not merely remedial for employees victimized by harassment. Enforcement of whistleblower rights is essential for the economic health of our country. A high level whistleblower had warned Enron’s Chief Executive Officer that continued fraud would lead to bankruptcy, but the CEO responded with retaliation and a national economic crisis ensued in addition to the company’s bankruptcy. The mortgage fraud crisis occurred after numerous banks chose to fire employees who warned that deceptive practices were illegal and would backfire.

These examples also highlight that funding the whistleblower program is a benefit for employers and employees.  The Ethics Resource Center surveys report that 96% of whistleblowers first attempt to work within the corporate system, and only 2% make third party disclosures that bypass the company entirely.  Those disclosures can make a positive contribution to the health of the economy, if these messengers are not silenced. A Price Waterhouse global survey of multinational corporations that whistleblowers are responsible for detecting more fraud than corporate internal security, internal audits and law enforcement combined.  The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has issued analogous conclusions.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, please contact Tom Devine at the Government Accountability Project,; 202-457-0034, ext. 124.

Respectfully submitted,

Danielle Brian
Project On Government Oversight

Steve Kohn
National Whistleblower Center

George E. Barrett
Barrett Johnston, LLC

Paul Lawrence
Waters & Kraus LLP

Patrick Barrett
Barrett Law Office, PLLC

Seth R. Lesser
Klafter Olsen & Lesser LLP

Jamie M. Bennett
Ashcraft & Gerel LLP

Cyrus Mehri
Voices for Corporate Responsibility

Esther Berezofsky
Williams Cuker Berezofsky, Attorneys At Law

O. V. Melehy
Melehy & Associates, Inc.

Lynne Bernabei
Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC

Scott Oswald
Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association

David Blanchard
Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard
& Walker, P.C.

Gale D. Pearson
Pearson, Randall, Schumacher & LaBore, P.A.

Tom Carpenter
Hanford Challenge

Robin Potter
Robin Potter & Associates, P.C.

Adam Augustine Carter
Employment Law Group, P.C.

Jeff Ruch
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Macon Cowles
EasonRohde, LLC

K. Tracy Rigor
Borowitz & Goldsmith, P.L.C.

Tom Devine
Government Accountability Project

Gerald C. Robinson
Gerald Robinson Law Firm, PLLC

Jimmy Evans
James H. Evans, Attorney at Law

Steven A. Skalet
Mehri & Skalet, PLLC

Scott George
Seeger Weiss LLP

J. Arthur Smith, III
J. Arthur Smith III Law Office

Betty Grdina
Mooney Green Saindon Murphy & Welch, P.C.

David Stone
Stone & Magnanini LLP

Reuben Guttman
Grant & Eisenhofer P.A.

Nicholas Woodfield
Virginia Employment Lawyers Association

Claudine Q. Homolash
Sheller, P.C.

Eric Young
Egan Young, Attorneys-At-Law

Sara Wyn Kane
Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP