Archive for October 30, 2010


Comments Regarding “Declining DCAA Role in Oversight of Tens of Billions of Pentagon Contract Dollars

 

Here are some comments left on one of the articles I posted earlier today.  You will want to check the original article and additional comments.  See link at bottom of this post.  And thanks again, Old Navy Man.  GFS

G. Florence-

 

It’s not just ‘An Old Navy Man’ that believes there’s a problem.  See comments below.

 

Good investigative reporting on the part of Mr. Schwellenbach!

 

An Old Navy Man

 

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Joe   It is a shame that the only reason that DCAA gave away proposal audits under the stated PGI threshold is so that we can put more time in working paper documentation. Not that our audits will be any better or that we will question more cost. No, just the opposite. We gave away millions of dollars of proposal work just to have more time to document our work. Such as waste of effort. This is definately contrary to Secretary Gates efficiency initiative. I am dispoointed that Fitzgerald did not have a backbone and went along with AT&L on this one. Stephenson never would have given away work just to have more time for those picture perfect working papers. What’s next, $500 million and $50 million. Before we know it, Fitzgerald will have each auditor completing only one audit per year. I imagine that Policy is already examining how to raise the desk review incurred cost threshold to $100 million per year. Here’s a clue how to deal with the gap between the audit work that needs to be accomplished and the current funding, provide DCAA more funds. Simple, issue solved. DCAA saves dollar for dollar more than it costs, period. So why won’t Comptroller Hale provide DCAA more money? Oh I get it, he does not want oversight of contractors and neither does our lobbyist Deputy Secretary of Defense. I get it now. We need a change of administration and fast!

Posted on: Oct 30, 2010 at 05:54 PM

Carol   The blog comments are 100% on the mark. In essence, pricing evaluations by DCMA for FFP under $10 million and cost type over $100 million will become nothing more than a rate check. DCMA is not staffed to perform a full price analysis of proposals under these thresholds. This represents a high volume of proposals. Rather DCMA will call DCAA for the latest rates and that will be the extent of the price analysis. It will not matter than the rates are 2-3 years old or perhaps no rate information. The message was been sent by AT&L, pricing actions under these thresholds are immaterial and become a blank check for contractors. I am curious about the independence comment made by Frank. I thought that the Defense Business Board in its October 2008 report stated that DCAA should perform any audits it felt necessary regardless of the DPAP guidance, FAR, DFARS, CAS, etc. How can DPAP decide the audits to be performed by DCAA? This seems to be an independence issue. The PGI guidance was not revised due to a change in law or other legal statute. Perhaps Fitzgerald is confusing Army Audit with DCAA where in Army Audit the Secretary of the Army may decide the audits that are performed. But in DCAA, the responsibility is on the DCAA Director to decide the audits that are necessary, no one else has that responsibility. I believe we have a GAGAS noncompliance. POGO, could you research the independence issue. This could be very serious.

Posted on: Oct 30, 2010 at 08:02 AM

John    Agree with Frank and Mike. The Pentagon has wanted DCAA to get out of the forward pricing audit business for years. Contracting officials want to place as much money on contract as possible and do not want to have to address audit findings while negotiating contracts. However, I would argue that the new thresholds really do not matter because many forward pricing reports are issued too late to be of use to the contracting officer and many others are never issued because the supervisor, manager, region, QA reviewers have an issue with the working papers such as the entrance conference was not thoroughly documented or the sample was too small. All the while, real dollars are wasted especially on FFP contracts. Assignments are cancelled all the time. I recall a time when the FAO had a prepare a detailed explanation for the region when it cancelled an assignment. Now we cancel more assignments that we complete. POGO, you should ask for the number of cancelled assignments for the last five years, you should see a significant increase in FY 2010. Not to mention the millions that have gone unaudited and thousands of audit hours wasted. I guess Army Audit has a very liberal cancellation policy.

Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 07:42 PM

Jan   Here’s the next scandle, DCAA spends twice as much to do 25%of the audits. Overpayments and fraud triple due to no oversight. GAO and IG find DCAA’s audit working papers are perfect, but gig DCAA for performing marginal analytical procedures. Wake-up Fitzgerald, you have many hearings in your future so start practicing the opening statement on how the Pentagon made you do it and how important it is to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Oh, and do not forget, you are responsible for DCAA and cannot use the Pentagon or anyone else as an excuse. The independence issue is squarely on you. Keep in mind that Under Secretary Hale and Deputy Lynn will not be around forever to protect you.

Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 07:01 PM

Mike   This action is very short-sighted by Director Fitzgerald. The ratio of questioned cost to dollars examined on the smaller dollar pricing actions is generally greater than the larger dollars especially the fixed price effort. These are generally smaller, less experienced contractors that do not have adequate pricing systems in place and are not knowledgeable of the FAR and CAS. Last month my office issued a report on a FFP $8 million proposal. We questioned half of the proposed amount ($4 million) because the contractor charged all indirect costs to the Government contract and none to its commercial customers. Reason, the commercial customer would not pay for the indirect costs, but they tried to get the Government to pay it. The CO sustained 100% and reduced the negotiated price accordingly. DCMA does not know contractor accounting records at the level of detail as DCAA and would not have had this finding in their price evaluation. Result, $4 million down the drain. POGO stay with this one, it has scandle written all over it.

Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 06:10 PM

Frank   It is an impairment to DCAA’s independence for the Pentagon to dictate the audits that DCAA will perform. If there is a risk such as an inadequate estimating system, history of overbillings, or even fraud referrals, DCAA should be able to perform the pricing audits. This is just the Pentagon’s way of reducing the oversight of contractors. DCMA is not equipped to handle the significant workload associated with pre-award pricing effort on cost-type contracts under $100 million and fixed-price under $10 million.

Posted on: Oct 29, 2010 at 0 http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2010/10/declining-dcaa-role-in-oversight-of-tens-of-billions-of-pentagon-contract-dollars.html6:02 PM

http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2010/10/declining-dcaa-role-in-oversight-of-tens-of-billions-of-pentagon-contract-dollars.html

Here is another article and comment sent from a reader.  Thank you again, Old Navy Man.  And GFS

 

 

G. Florence-

 

Reduce government, and you reduce defense contractor oversight.

 

An Old Navy Man

 

WashingtonTechnology

DOD auditors raise the limit on what they’ll examine

Watchdog group cries foul over what they see as reduced oversight

By Alice Lipowicz

Oct 29, 2010

The Defense Department has reduced the scope of contracts audited by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, according to a DCAA memo released today by the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

According to the memo, contracting officers’ requests for DCAA reviews of contractor cost data must meet a threshold of $10 million for fixed-price proposals and $100 million for cost-type proposals, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Previously, the threshold was $700,000 for fixed-price proposals and $10 million for cost-type proposals, POGO officials said in a post published on the organization’s website.

Approximately $92 billion in annual DOD contracts will be affected by the new thresholds, POGO estimated, calling it a radical reduction in contract oversight by DCAA.

“POGO has long feared contractors and their government allies would block DCAA from exposing contractor ripoffs,” Nick Schwellenbach, POGO’s director of investigations, said today.“Why are billions of dollars being put at risk when [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates is demanding cost savings?”

DCAA officials were not immediately available for comment.

 http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2010/10/29/dcaa-audits-contractor.aspx

This is another article sent to me today.  Thank you reader!  GFS

 

 G. Florence-

 The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) is broken.  The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) is broken.  And the Defense Security Service (DSS) is broken.  It looks like the entire contracting and security oversight of defense contractors is broken.

 An Old Navy Man

POGO

Pentagon Radically Reducing Oversight of Contracts Worth Tens of Billions

October 29, 2010  Nick Schwellenbach

The Pentagon has radically decreased the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s (DCAA) review of contracts, according to an October 18 DCAA memo obtained by POGO. DCAA’s job is to protect taxpayers from contractor overbilling.

“POGO has long feared contractors and their government allies would block DCAA from exposing contractor ripoffs,” said Nick Schwellenbach, POGO’s director of investigations.  “Why are billions of dollars being put at risk when Secretary Gates is demanding cost savings?”

According to the memo, contracting guidance “now limits contracting officer requests for audit services to Fixed-price proposals over $10 million and Cost-Type proposals over $100 million, unless there are exceptional circumstances.”

These audit services are reviews of cost data (referred to as “reviews”) and they entail an examination of a contractor’s cost proposal to the government.  In these proposals, contractors estimate how much it will cost them to accomplish work on a contract.

Previously, there was no dollar threshold for reviews on fixed-price contract proposals, but contracting officers would limit requests for DCAA reviews of proposals over a threshold tied to the submission of cost or pricing data, which is currently $700,000. The old threshold for reviews of cost-type proposals was $10 million, but could be lower if the contractor has systemic problems estimating costs.

In FY 2009, a total of at least $92 billion in Defense Department contracts fell between the old thresholds and the new ones, according to USAspending.gov.  The $92 billion figure is a conservative estimate – it reflects awarded and funded contracts, rather than contract proposals, which are often higher than the funded contract award amounts.

The guidance states that cost proposals below the new dollar thresholds for review may be sent instead to the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). DCMA is typically less thorough than DCAA, according to a 2009 Wartime Contracting Commission report.  The DCMA also does not specialize in examining and verifying cost and pricing data.

The reason for this new restriction is DCAA’s attempt to perfectly comply with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS). With this standard, which requires meticulous documentation of findings, DCAA is unable to cover as much ground as they used to, thus the need to restrict “audits” as defined by GAGAS.  The number of DCAA reports produced annually has plunged: 33,801 in FY 2007 to 30,352 in FY 2008 to 21,276 reports in FY 2009.

Rather than subjecting reviews of cost or pricing data to GAGAS, DCAA should consider these reviews as financial advisory services, which are not subject to all GAGAS requirements.  This would better protect taxpayers and warfighters by allowing DCAA to review cost data and deliver advice to contracting officers in a timely fashion.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/contract-oversight/co-ca-20101029.html

Foreclosure freeze could put security clearances at risk

By Dina ElBoghdady and Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 9:51 PM

The sudden moratorium on many foreclosures across the country has unexpectedly put some federal workers and contractors in jeopardy of losing their security clearances because of the heightened uncertainty clouding their finances, according to lawyers who handle these cases.

Employees with security clearances are monitored by the government for financial problems that would make them vulnerable to bribery or blackmail. And with many financial companies adopting some form of foreclosure freeze in recent weeks, it’s taking longer for some delinquent borrowers to resolve their mortgage cases and put their troubles behind them, the lawyers said.

This problem is especially acute in the Washington region, home to nearly a third of the the nation’s 854,000 employees with top-secret clearances.

“Resolving debt is more complicated when the lenders are in paralysis,” said Dennis Sysko, a national security lawyer in Glen Burnie. “The longer it is unresolved, the longer the cloud remains.”

Lawyers in the Washington area said they are starting to field inquiries about foreclosure delays from workers who have security clearances or are trying to get them. Many don’t know whether they should be elated or concerned by the turn of events.

“I’m just really confused because nobody has made clear to me what this foreclosure delay means,” said Brian Young, a federal employee from Capitol Heights.

Young bought his first home in October 2007 with a first and second mortgage from Bank of America. At the time, he had the interim secret clearance he needed to do his electrical engineering job at a Defense Department agency, he said. He applied for a permanent clearance soon thereafter.

When the permanent clearance did not come through as quickly as he’d hoped, Young said, his pay was cut, and he fell behind on his mortgage in August. He was engaged in talks with his lender to modify his loan when his security clearance was revoked. His supervisors suspended him from his job, citing him as a financial risk, mostly because of his mortgage problems, he said.

Young is appealing the decision. But as he waits, he’s fallen further behind on his mortgage and other bills, including child support payments. Bank of America informed him that it would expedite foreclosure and seize his home, but then the lender suddenly announced a halt to all its foreclosure sales nationwide. This week, the bank said that it would restart foreclosures in some states, but not yet in the Washington region.

“This is just dragging everything out, and my credit keeps taking more hits,” Young said. “If it helps me in some way, cool. But I just don’t know if it does.”

The moratorium comes to D.C.

Foreclosure delays started when Ally Financial, formerly GMAC, suspended evictions last month after concerns arose about flaws in court documents used to seize homes. The firm limited its freeze to the 23 states where lenders have to win a court order to initiate a foreclosure. Other major lenders, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, also suspended foreclosures in those states.

Virginia, Maryland and the District were not immediately affected by the lenders’ actions. But then Bank of America suspended foreclosures nationwide. Others have since selectively halted foreclosures here. And at least two area circuit courts – in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – are reviewing cases for paperwork flaws.

Under government guidelines, the failure of security-cleared workers to live within their means and pay off debt suggests poor self-control, bad judgment and an unwillingness to abide by rules, raising concerns about their ability to protect classified information.

Only a few government agencies make public their decisions to revoke or deny security clearances. Among them is the Defense Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), which reviews cases involving contractors for the Pentagon and about two dozen agencies, according to lawyers.

From January 2006 through June 2010, about 70 appeals involving foreclosures and other distressed sales were considered by that office, and security clearances were revoked or denied in 62 of those cases, according to Sheldon I. Cohen, an Arlington lawyer who recently wrote a paper about the rulings.

“In many cases, they act as a court of morality,” Cohen said.

Based on his study of the DOHA appeals cases in the past 41/2 years, Cohen said that the number of security clearance denials and revocations has kept pace with the number of mortgage defaults, foreclosures and other distressed sales in the country.

‘Emotionally charged issue’

The number of security-cleared workers who are in trouble with their loans is not public. But John P. Mahoney, a lawyer at Tully Rinckey in the District, said there is no reason to believe that these employees are insulated from the problems that plague the housing market at large.

“Now they are concerned that their clearance will be pulled or they will be fired because their real estate investments have gone bad,” Mahoney said. “It’s a very emotionally charged issue, because some of these people have had high-level clearances for decades and never dreamed they would face a problem like this.”

Two weeks ago, Mahoney was contacted by a government contractor panicked about the payments she’s missed on three investment properties she can no longer afford. She can’t refinance or sell the homes because each has lost value.

The contractor, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, said in an interview that she has had a security clearance for more than 20 years. She is talking to Bank of America, her lender, about modifying the loans to avoid foreclosure.

“I’m hoping the freeze will work for me instead of against me,” she said.

But anything that keeps her from resolving the problems leaves her in limbo. And that means it will take that much longer for her to regain her financial footing, reestablish her credit and reassure the government that she’s trustworthy.

“If the foreclosure moratorium continues and she is unable to successfully modify her loans, she’s left with the financial concerns that could lead to her termination,” Mahoney said. He added, “Action needs to be taken, a government-wide approach, so that people who add value to the government’s mission and have a long record of trusted service don’t lose their jobs for no other reason than an economic downturn.”

dina@washpost.com hedgpethd@washpost.com

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Link to original:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/20/AR2010102003372.html

Ex-spies group official: Bankruptcy a security risk

The executive director of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, the main organization for ex-CIA and military spies, says people with security clearances who have fallen into bankruptcy should be closely monitored.

The Washington Post, citing lawyers who handle bankruptcies, reported Wednesday that “the moratorium on many foreclosures across the country has unexpectedly put some federal workers and contractors in jeopardy of losing their security clearances because of the heightened uncertainty clouding their finances.”

Elizabeth Bancroft, AFIO’s executive director, told SpyTalk that, “based on the examples provided” in the Post article, “the security reviews should indeed be held up when one sees this level of irresponsible overspending.”

The current crisis “has little to do with mortgage paperwork and more to do with irrational investment expectations, investment zeal and an unwillingness to accept the reality that some investments can become major losses,” maintained Bancroft, who emphasized she was not speaking for AFIO as a whole.

“Even houses are risky investments. Three investment properties that go bad can bring down, shall we say, the whole house of cards: career, retirement savings, credit rating, and even a security clearance,” she said.

Theoretically, employees of the spy agencies and Pentagon are closely monitored for all kinds of stresses that might leave them open to bribery or blackmail, including financial stresses.

That is not always the case, as past security studies have shown. But the extended mortgage crisis may be prompting security officers at the CIA, Pentagon and other agencies involved in sensitive operations to be more attentive to potential problems than usual.

“This problem is especially acute in the Washington region, home to nearly a third of the nation’s 854,000 employees with top-secret clearances,” the Post’s Dana Hedgpeth and Dina Elboghday reported.

But bankruptcy is not likely to trigger an automatic, immediate or permanent revocation of their clearances, Bancroft said.

“I think people caught up in this foreclosure mess are given a ‘wait and see’ security evaluation – even if it’s just an update of the clearance. If it is a case of a responsible but now overextended employee being transferred to a new post, but trapped in an underwater mortgage, few background security officers are going to hold that against them.”

“They should permit them to continue in the job,” Bancroft added, “but there should be enhanced [counterintelligence] scrutiny of such employees until their financial houses are in order. They, too, could represent a risk. They should be allowed to continue, but required to sign a document which lays bare to agency review all personal financial transactions until the deep indebtedness has been resolved.”

The security clearances of new hires with financial problems should be put on hold, Bancroft also advised.

“It’s frustrating for the division waiting to hire them, but still the wisest course is caution,” she said.

The FBI Agents Association declined to comment on the issue, as did the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI.

Link to original:  http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/10/ex-spies_group_official_says_b.html

 

This was sent today!  GFS

G. Florence,

This doesn’t even pass the stupid test!   An Old Navy Man

 

Spy cruise prepares to set sail for Caribbean

About 100 spooks are expected to board a Holland America cruise ship for SpyCruise, which sets sail Nov. 13 for the Caribbean for a week of talks on terrorism and national security issues. First stop: Turks and Caicos.

The speakers list is a who’s who of spooks, including: Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA; Porter Gross, a former congressman with ties to the intelligence committee and another former director of the CIA; Peter Brookes, who served with the CIA and the State Department and is now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation; and Andre Le Gallo, a former CIA chief in Mali, Romania, Israel and Belgium with specialties in managing counterintelligence and special operations.

The event is sponsored by the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and Henley-Putnam University. Part of the proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the children of fallen CIA officers and another memorial fund for a U.S. Army soldier who was killed in training, according to Bart Bechtel, a retired CIA operations officer who is coordinating the trip.

Bechtel, who also calls himself the SpyCruise director, said the speakers won’t get paid, but do get their room and travel covered.

He said the cruise attendees attract former and retired intelligence professionals, military and civilian employees from the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, plus mystery writers, journalists, law enforcement officers and those with conspiracy theories.

“We welcome everyone,” Bechtel said.

A ticket aboard the spy cruise ship run from $1,000 to $4,000.

By Dana Hedgpeth  | October 13, 2010; 5:02 PM ET

Link to original:  http://voices.washingtonpost.com/checkpoint-washington/2010/10/spy_cruise_prepares_to_set_sai.html

 

Really, why are we selling Saudi Arabia weapons?  I know the first answer…they are our ally in the middle east.  But wait, consider the abuse of Boeing/BISS employee, U.S. veteran, Robin Petersen, and others who were/are being held captive by the Saudi government, as if they were indentured servants, rather than U.S. citizens who accepted employment with a subsidiary of the mega-corporation, Boeing?  Hey all of you normally vociferous advocates for human rights and torch carriers against governments who commit human rights violations and persecute certain groups of people within their grasp – where are you now?  Is it right for the U.S. to service and provide for those who abuse U.S. citizens, (and loyal U.S. veterans)?  GFS

 

Pentagon plans $60 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 12:58 AM

The Defense Department has notified Congress that it wants to sell $60 billion worth of advanced aircraft and weapons to Saudi Arabia. The proposed sale, which includes helicopters, fighter jets, radar equipment and satellite-guided bombs, would be the largest arms deal to another country in U.S. history if the sale goes through and all purchases are made.

Congress has 30 days to review the sale before the Pentagon and the weapons makers go into more detailed contract discussions with Saudi Arabia. Congress is expected to review the deal when it is back in session after the elections.

The arms package includes 84 new F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have, as well as three types of helicopters: 70 Apaches, 72 Black Hawks and 36 Little Birds. Saudi Arabia would also get versions of a satellite-guided “smart bomb” system, plus anti-ship and anti-radar missiles.

To read more follow the link.

Link to original and comments:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/20/AR2010102006518.html

Federal contractors must navigate workplace mediation without roadmap

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010; 6:18 PM

“As the U.S. government’s use of contract workers rises, agencies ranging from the Defense Department to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy are finding they have to deal with more complex questions of defining a person’s work status as a contractor versus a federal employee.

The issue is becoming increasingly important as to whether a federal agency or a contractor is responsible when disputes emerge over pay, workers compensation, harassment complaints, discrimination claims and other workplace issues. Contractors aren’t entitled to the same grievance processes as federal employees and typically have to go through outside agencies such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or get private lawyers and file lawsuits, whereas federal employees have a range of mediation services and appeals available to them.

In the last decade, the EEOC has ruled in 90 cases that a federal agency and a private contractor are “joint employers” of a person, meaning their case has to be processed as if they were a civil servant.”

To read more, follow the link.

Link to original:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/24/AR2010102402229.html

I received this yesterday from Old Navy Man.  Thank you.  I observed that Cheney seemed to have ties to Boeing previously.  Wonder if he is/was a recipient of gratitudes through Hidden Treuhands or other secret off-shore accounts?  GFS

 

G. Florence-

 

When will the taxpaying citizens get a clue?  Defense contractor oversight is broken, and it is the taxpaying citizens being taken for an A-12 ride!

 

An Old Navy Man

 

DoD Buzz

Supreme Court Takes Up A-12 Case

By Colin Clark Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 5:37 pm

Posted in Air, Naval, Policy

Hard as it may be to believe, a court case that traces its roots back to the time when Dick Cheney was Defense Secretary will be considered by the Supreme Court. The case involves the A-12 fighter program, for which the government says Boeing and General Dynamics owe it almost $3 billion (including interest).The court combined cases filed by the two companies, according to the New York Times and Bloomberg. The A-12 began with a 1988 contract to build the Avenger aircraft. The Navy cancelled the contract three years later and said the companies owed it $1.35 billion.

The contractors refused to return the money and sued. The government, they said, had not shared classified technology and that led to program delays. The government used the state secrets privilege to explain why it could not present arguments in court refuting the companies claims. An appeals court ruled against the contractors.

The stakes are high for everyone in this case. Boeing has said the company could owe $1.7 billion. General Dynamics has said it may owe $805 million. And the government must defend its right to invoke the state secrets privilege, which has been an increasingly important legal principle to the government.

[ http://www.dodbuzz.com/2010/09/28/supreme-court-takes-up-a-12-case/#idc-container ]

 

No guarantee for government whistleblowers

 Current law doesn’t provide protection and needs to be rewritten, critics say

 

By Amy Minsky, Postmedia NewsOctober 28, 2010

Canadian law offers no hope that public servants who blow the whistle on immoral government activities will be protected from “vicious, determined and career-ending” revenge, a group of accountability advocates said Wednesday.

The whistleblower-protection system — laid out in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act since 2007 — is riddled with so many loopholes and is so dysfunctional that it has to be stripped down and completely rebuilt, said Duff Conacher, coordinator for Democracy Watch, a national citizens’ group advocating democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility.

Christiane Ouimet, the first federal public sector integrity commissioner, resigned on Oct. 18 while her office was being investigated by Auditor-General Sheila Fraser. Only three years into her seven-year term, Ouimet’s office received 170 complaints, but the commissioner never found any instances of wrongdoing.

Fifty-eight whistleblowers filed reports to the commissioner’s office since 2007-08, saying they were mistreated or violated after filing a complaint. The commissioner launched only four investigations as a consequence of those complaints, and only two have been completed.

The commissioner didn’t find any evidence of reprisal in either of those cases.

The advocates are now calling for an independent review of the all the claims made to that office.

Federal opposition parties all say they support the role of an independent watchdog, but none has made plans to reform the legislation or to reopen the claims.

“It’s totally counter-productive,” said NDP MP Bill Siksay. “It’s the total opposite of what the legislation was supposed to accomplish. Even her staff felt uncomfortable. They knew of issues that needed to be addressed and fixed. But there was no mechanism to do that.”

The Conservatives, however, maintain that the legislation has strengthened protection for whistleblowers.

“I am confident the [commission] continues to be a safe and independent agency for the public servants to bring concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace without fear of reprisals,” said Treasury Board President Stockwell Day.

But as Conacher and his peers see it, the problem with accountability and protection is two-pronged.

Ouimet’s strategy was seemingly designed to never produce any findings of wrongdoing, said David Hutton, of the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform, who co-signed– along with Conacher and Allan Cutler of Canadians for Accountability — an open letter on the issue to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition party leaders.

And Hutton argues that any other commissioner is likely to hit a brick wall with the current legislation.

“A competent commissioner who actually sees their job as being to explore wrongdoing and protect whistleblowers will not accept the current law as their mandate,” he said.

Link:  http://www.vancouversun.com/news/guarantee+government+whistleblowers/3738562/story.html

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