Whistleblowers who work for federal contractors, grantees, and other recipients of federal funds play an essential role in exposing waste, fraud, and abuse—but they need better legislative protection, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) told a congressional panel today.
Whistleblowers have saved taxpayers more than $27 billion since 1987 through the False Claims Act (FCA) award program. However, this program only covers fraud, and does not protect whistleblowers who witness waste, mismanagement and other illegalities, POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.
A recent POGO report on the cost of contractors notes that the federal contractor workforce now dwarfs the federal employee workforce by nearly four-fold. Yet, most of those on the front lines in position to witness illegal acts do not have sufficient protection to safely come forward, said Canterbury.
POGO supports the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 241), modeled after the whistleblower protections in the Recovery Act, which so far has resulted in an extremely low incidence of fraud. S. 241, introduced by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jim Webb (D-VA), “would bridge the wide gaps in current coverage and comprehensively and apply best-practice protections to all federal funds recipient whistleblowers,” according to Canterbury.
She added that in these tough economic times, the stakes for accountability are high, since nearly half of all government spending is distributed to non-federal fund recipients. The employees of these companies and organizations, which received approximately $1.9 trillion in taxpayer dollars in FY 2011, would finally have effective whistleblower protections under the McCaskill-Webb legislation.
“It’s just plain common sense to have more ‘deputies’ safeguarding taxpayer dollars and the public trust,” Canterbury said. “Congress has to act now and pass this legislation.”