Whistleblower Protection:

Agencies' Implementation of the Whistleblower Statutes Has Been Mixed

GGD-93-66: Published: Mar 5, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's processing of whistleblower reprisal complaints and the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) effectiveness in protecting whistleblowers from reprisal.

GAO found that: (1) of the 19 agencies reviewed, 2 agencies had informed all employees of their whistleblower rights, 15 agencies had informed certain groups of employees of their rights, and 2 agencies had not informed their employees of their whistleblower rights; (2) in 1992, 76 percent of the federal employees surveyed did not know of their whistleblower rights and 73 percent did not know how the Whistleblower Protection Act protected them from reprisals; (3) federal agencies are not legally required to inform employees of their rights to protection from whistleblower reprisal; (4) 14 of the 19 agencies had not issued policies or procedures to prevent whistleblower reprisals; (5) not all federal employees are covered by the whistleblower statutes, specifically employees in policymaking or confidential positions; and (6) most agencies believed that whistleblower statutes strengthened and improved employee protection to some degree, but 13 of the 19 agencies lacked a method of measuring the level of whistleblower protection.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: The House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service should amend the whistleblower statutes (5 U.S.C. 1201 et seq.) to require agencies, with OSC guidance, to develop policies and procedures for carrying out the provisions of the whistleblower statutes.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 29, 1994, Congress enacted Public Law 103-424 to reauthorize the Office of Special Counsel and to make changes to the whistleblower program, including requiring OSC to issue a policy statement regarding the whistleblower law to each person alleging reprisal and requiring agencies to inform managers that retaliation against whistleblowers is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Special Counsel, with agencies' assistance, should assess whether whistleblower protection coverage needs to be extended to those positions currently not covered by the whistleblower statutes and recommend any coverage changes to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of Special Counsel

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On October 29, 1994, Congress enacted Public Law 103-424 to reauthorize the Office of Special Counsel and to make changes to the whistleblower program, including expanding the definition of "covered employees" to include government corporations and Veterans Affairs medical employees.

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