It’s time to make it easier for watchdogs to work without interference – Twin Cities

2021-04-09 01:11:25 –

Last year, a pandemic and the associated economic uncertainties devastated the country, while political corruption was ranked as the second most important issue among voters. This was not unusual. For the past five years, Americans have ranked “political corruption” and “corrupted government officials” as one of their major fears.

It is clear that the integrity of government agencies must be strengthened so that the public can be confident that corrupt actors will be exposed and held accountable.

Stronger protection against whistleblowers and independent government observers will greatly help eradicate this corruption, which is of great concern to the public.

Whistleblowers support government checks and balance systems by stating and reporting waste, fraud, illegal activity, or abuse of power that may otherwise be overlooked and unaddressed. But they do so with great personal and occupational risk.

Whistleblowers themselves are often the subject of retaliatory internal or criminal investigations, monopolizing the resources of those who tell the truth. These investigations, like other forms of retaliation, are afraid to have a chilling effect, prevent others from exposing fraud, and allow corrupt government officials to operate exempt. I will lend you credit. For this reason, better protection is needed to enable whistleblowers to disclose and combat corruption and abuse of power within the government.

Currently, federal whistleblowers are in a winning position. Most people do not have access to federal courts to enforce protection. And the Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency that is supposed to protect them, has had no seats filled for more than two years, with over 3,000 outstandings.

In addition, the culture surrounding whistleblowers uses messengers (through retaliation for whistleblowers) to report fraud rather than addressing the actual systematic issues of the government disclosed by whistleblowers. Produced an almost reflexive reaction to shoot.

To this end, our Democracy Protection Act will enhance the protection of whistleblowers in many ways. Most importantly, whistleblowers should be able to implement protection in court in front of their peers’ jury on behalf of MSPB, a quasi-judiciary within the administration.

The bill will also limit the opportunity for government officials to disclose the identity of whistleblowers. It is illegal to retaliate against a whistleblower by initiating a futile investigation into the actions of the whistleblower. Administrative judges and employees working with whistleblowers need special training. And it will create a secure mechanism for whistleblowers in the intelligence community to provide information directly to Congress.

Strengthening the protection of whistleblowers by enacting this law will help restore the urgent need for corruption checks within the federal government.

Inspectors, independent government observers who investigate federal agencies and report the results to Congress also need stronger protection than ever before.

The nature of their work is to provide independent surveillance without political interference or retaliation. This is a fundamental difference from other politically appointed persons nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. However, under current law, the president can remove the IG for any reason, as evidenced by the removal and exchange that Donald Trump carried out in response to his administration’s oversight.

The law prohibits the head of a government agency from interfering with IG’s investigation, but with this unlimited removal authority, the president or the head of the agency does not interfere with politically sensitive investigations, but simply guard dogs. Deletion can improperly block any effort that IG makes for independent monitoring. .. To provide strong, non-political oversight, the IG needs independence from both the oversight body and the president.

Congress has introduced several bills to protect against removal in retaliation in response to the IG firing rash that appears to be politically motivated in Trump’s final year in office. One such proposal, which is now part of our Democracy Protection Act, will require the president to have a “just cause” for his dismissal. The administration submitted evidence of the cause to Parliament, required the Inspector General’s Office to report to Parliament on ongoing investigations at the time of removal (to ensure that they could proceed independently), and Parliament on IG vacancies. Reporting requirements need to be strengthened. These amendments enhance inspector general independence and provide US taxpayers with independent oversight while preventing inspectors from retaliation.

Stronger protection against whistleblowers and inspectors will advance the bipartisan ideal that functioning democracy relies on solid checks and balance. Whistleblowers should be able to make retaliatory disclosures, just as IG can perform its duties in good faith without facing political interference. These reforms will ensure that accountability and transparency continue to be the driving force behind the restoration of key elements of our democracy.

Liz Hempowicz is responsible for public policy and Melissa Wasser is a policy lawyer for Project On Government Overseas, a nonpartisan group investigating federal corruption, fraud and conflicts of interest. The fulcrum covers what makes democracy dysfunctional and efforts to modify our governance system. Sign up for our newsletter at thefulcrum.us. Fulcrum is a non-profit, non-partisan news platform that covers efforts to modify our governance system.

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