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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

House Whistleblower Caucus Member Leads Passage of OSC Reauthorization Bill

Irvin McCullough, June 22, 2016

On June 21st, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the “Thoroughly Investigating Retaliation Against Whistleblowers Act” (H.R. 4639). Introduced by House Whistleblower Protection Caucus member Representative Rod Blum (R-IA) and cosponsored by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Gerald Connolly (D-VA), this bipartisan bill reauthorizes the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) until 2021 and streamlines the OSC’s ability to conduct investigations. In a speech promoting his legislation, Rep. Blum noted that “the OSC has an immensely important role to play in protecting whistleblowers helping to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” and “this bill aims to give OSC the tools it needs…to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OSC operations.”

Specifically, the bill:

  • Clarifies the OSC’s authority to request and receive agency information pertaining to whistleblower investigations
  • Expands the OSC’s annual reporting requirements to better inform both policymakers and the whistleblowing community at large
  • Improves customer service during various stages of the review and investigative processes by establishing a pilot program to interview OSC complainants
  • Requires the OSC to issue regulations within two years of the Act’s enactment

By clarifying the OSC’s investigative authority, agencies can no longer shield managers from scrutiny. Moreover, it addresses former criticisms by establishing the pilot program to improve service, and the measures to increase reporting requirements provide greater transparency. The OSC applauds the bill for these very reasons. The OSC chief, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, thanked Rep. Blum and the cosponsors for this bill. “Rep. Rod Blum and the other sponsors of this legislation deserve our thanks for working to strengthen OSC’s ability to protect federal whistleblowers.” Special Counsel Lerner also welcomed “additional tools to protect federal employees and save taxpayer dollars.”

Last May, the Senate’s companion bill (S. 2968) received unanimous support in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. We urge the full Senate to quickly vote on the bill, and for both chambers to swiftly reconcile their versions and pass the OSC Reauthorization Act this Congress!

Overall, we applaud Rep. Blum and his cosponsors for reauthorizing the OSC and reaffirming government accountability.

The OSC Reauthorization Act is supported by the following good government and taxpayer protection groups: Government Accountability Project, ACORN8, Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Blacks In Government – Heritage Chapter, Demand Progress, Federally Employed Women – Legal & Education Fund, Inc., International Association of Whistleblowers, Liberty Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, and Taxpayers Protection Alliance