Washington, DC — The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the agency that is supposed to protect federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse, is dismissing hundreds of cases while advancing almost none, according an analysis of the latest agency figures released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Despite record numbers of federal employees filing whistleblower disclosures and complaints of retaliation, there are fewer investigations and a much greater likelihood that those who blow the whistle will be silenced.
Scott Bloch, the Bush appointed Special Counsel has been in office for nearly two years, during which time positive results for whistleblowers have plummeted. Even though the first quarter of FY 2006 is almost over, last week Bloch finally posted his annual report for FY 2004 on the OSC website, without any public announcement and nearly a year late. The overdue report’s contents explain its tardiness:
- Less than 1.5% of whistleblower disclosures of problems were even referred for investigation while more than 1,000 employee reports of waste, fraud and abuse were closed by Bloch’s staff on the grounds that they were not worthy of further review; and
- Only eight whistleblower disclosures were substantiated (none were found to be unsubstantiated) during Bloch’s first year but, according to the OSC report, the most significant cases involved theft of a desk and attendance violations.
“With Scott Bloch at the helm, the Office of Special Counsel is acting as a Plumber’s Unit for the Bush administration, plugging leaks, blocking investigations and discrediting sources,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Under Bloch, political appointees, not civil servants, decide which cases go forward and which cases are round filed.”
Those whistleblowers who claimed to suffer retaliation for making reports fared even worse:
- Favorable outcomes declined sharply (24%) under Bloch even though there were more cases;
- The only favorable outcomes were in cases where the offending agency agreed to make changes. In no case did Bloch litigate directly on behalf of a whistleblower; and
- More than nine out of ten surveyed employees were dissatisfied with the effectiveness of OSC, with more than three in four classifying themselves as “very dissatisfied.”
“If the Special Counsel were a private business it would have to close its doors,” Ruch added, noting that pending reform legislation allows whistleblowers greater freedom to directly advocate their cases. “Bloch’s abysmal performance raises serious questions about whether the Office of Special Counsel should be abolished altogether.”