For Immediate Release: Monday, December 5, 2005
WHISTLEBLOWERS GET NO HELP FROM BUSH ADMINISTRATION
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.”
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Hundreds of Whistleblower Cases Dismissed Improperly, Group Charges
by Brendan Coyne
Dec. 6, 2005 – Amid growing charges that various federal agencies are acting illegally, the office responsible for investigating many such allegations made by government employees released its 2004 report a year late and with no public announcement.
According to the 2004 report of the United States Office of Special Counsel, only a handful of the nearly 1,200 employee reports of waste, fraud and abuse on the Office?s schedule at the start of 2004 were deemed worthy of further investigation. Of those investigated, the office found only eight to have merit.
The Office received almost 2,000 new complaints during 2004 and referred 244 for investigation, closing 1,799 within 240 days of receiving them, the report noted. There were 653 complaints carried over from 2003.
In a statement released yesterday, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) alleged that Scott Bloch, the office?s head and a political appointee of the Bush administration, has been sweeping serious complaints under the rug at the behest of White House officials. For more than a year, PEER has been attacking Bloch over similar concerns, including charges that he conducted a purge of Special Counsel workers for whistle-blowing activities of their own.
“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,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in the statement. “Under Bloch, political appointees, not civil servants, decide which cases go forward and which cases are round filed.”
The OSC report begins with two pages of Bloch?s biography and a laundry list of his accomplishments at the helm of the Office.
It does not include information about the controversy surrounding his management of the office. As reported by The NewStandard in April 2004, Bloch first made waves when he decreed that sexual orientation would no longer be considered “protected conduct” for government employees. The move was condemned by lawmakers and, eventually, President Bush. A year later, critics charge, Bloch attempted to orchestrate a virtual purge of the Washington, DC office by forcing senior staffers to transfer to regional branches purportedly created for just that purpose. That move is now under investigation by a separate agency, the Office of Personnel Management.
Of most concern to PEER and the whistleblowers whose complaints went uninvestigated is the fact that Bloch cleared out a huge backlog of complaints, mostly by dismissing investigations without seeking further information from the whistleblower who filed the claim in question, a fact he cited as evidence of the good work the Office of Special Counsel was doing under his command in a letter to Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) earlier this year. PEER obtained and released the letter in February.
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