The Office of Special Counsel announced the creation of an award program for federal whistleblowers Tuesday and will honor an Army Corps of Engineers employee as its first recipient. The Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency responsible for investigating whistleblower complaints, will honor Donald C. Sweeney with the first Special Counsel's Public Servant Award. Sweeney, a Corps economist, accused top agency officials in February 2000 of rigging data in a cost-benefit analysis of navigation improvements to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. In November 2000, the Army inspector general substantiated Sweeney's allegations that Corps officials manipulated data to justify the project's $1 billion price tag. Last month, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that also concluded the Corps had used flawed data in its analysis. "Dr. Sweeney and other federal employee whistleblowers like him deserve this special recognition because they embody the finest tradition of federal employment; their first loyalty is not to themselves or to any institution, but instead to the public they serve," said Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan. The Special Counsel established the award program to recognize federal employees who blow the whistle-often at personal risk-on gross mismanagement within federal agencies and other serious abuses committed by government officials. The award is a nonmonetary, merit-based honor that recognizes the whistleblower's contributions to the public interest. In choosing award recipients, the Office of Special Counsel will consider several factors, including: the impact of the whistleblower's disclosure on the public interest; benefits to the government arising from the disclosure; strong substantiation of the allegations; and the risk taken by the employee in disclosing information.
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