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Policy Letter

POGO Joins in Urging Congress to Fund Whistleblower Protection Programs

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, [email protected]; 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