DCAA Lifts Gag Order Against Whistleblower


Government Executive reported on Friday that the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has rescinded a year-long nondisclosure memo filed against a veteran agency auditor.  The decision to lift the gag order came on September 12th, two days after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing on the DCAA in which agency whistleblowers described a culture of retaliation targeted against those who refused to limit negative audit findings.

The nondisclosure memo was filed in 2007 against Diem-Thi Le, who testified at the Senate hearing.  In 2005, after conducting an audit of Fluor Corporation, Le discovered that the contractor’s accounting system was “inadequate,” and concluded that it was over-charging the government.  But Le’s supervisor deleted her findings and altered documents in order to show that Fluor’s accounting system was “adequate.”

After learning that her supervisor had altered her working papers, Le filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG).  But somehow her complaint ended up back in the hands of DCAA managers, who transferred Le to another team, gave her a poor performance review, and ordered her to see a psychiatrist.  The 2007 nondisclosure memo stated that Le could not access or share DCAA documents with any investigators, and that she had to return any documents in her possession.

After the Senate hearing earlier this month, however, the DCAA apparently decided to change its tune.  The September 12th memo obtained by Government Executive informed Le that she could now share documents with the Office of Special Counsel or any other government investigator.  On the same day, DCAA Director April Stephenson also sent a memo to agency employees reassuring them that they could speak to federal investigators without fear of retaliation:

It is the firm policy of the Defense Contract Audit Agency that employees are encouraged to cooperate with any investigations conducted by representatives of the federal government investigative authorities by providing testimony and documents in accordance with federal law, including the Whistleblower Protection Act, DoD and DCAA policies and regulations.

But Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and others are not fully satisfied with the DCAA’s response.  McCaskill has requested that Stephenson identify the attorney who drafted the nondisclosure memo and release the names of any DCAA managers who may have reviewed it.  The DOD IG is also investigating the incident.

As our loyal blog readers know, the DCAA has been under intense scrutiny lately following the release of a GAO report that questioned the independence of DCAA auditors.

— Michael Smallberg