OSC on pace for record number of whistleblower disclosures

The Government Accountability Project's Tom Devine The Government Accountability Project's Tom Devine C-SPAN photo

The Office of Special Counsel is projecting a record number of reported incidents from whistleblowers in fiscal 2012, despite a small dip in fiscal 2011, an OSC spokeswoman told Government Executive.

Through the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, OSC -- the independent federal agency responsible for investigating claims brought forth by whistleblowers -- has received 847 disclosures, putting the agency on pace for 1,129 by the close of fiscal 2012 on Sept. 30. That would mark a 22 percent increase from fiscal 2011 and an all-time high for incidents reported in a single year.

After years of rapid growth in the number of disclosures from whistleblowers to OSC, fiscal 2011 saw a 3 percent decrease from the previous year, the first such decline since 2006, according to the agency's annual report.

The fiscal 2011 statistic is simply an outlier from an otherwise upward trend, OSC spokeswoman Ann O’Hanlon said.

“We’ve more than doubled the number of disclosures since 2006,” she said, “so we’re clearly working with record numbers. I don’t think one year tells you any kind of overall story.”

Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group, said the decrease in fiscal 2011 could be attributed to a lack of leadership in the office, as there was a gap between the resignation of the previous director, the disgraced Scott Bloch, and its current chief, Carolyn Lerner.

“The general opinion in the whistleblower community is that the office was dormant,” Devine said, adding, “I would have predicted a much sharper drop during that particular year.”

Despite the record numbers, a November 2011 report from the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent, quasi-judicial agency that serves to protect federal employees, found there has been no progress in the past 20 years in reducing the anxiety feds feel about blowing the whistle on potential waste or abuse.

“Perceptions of retaliation against those who blow the whistle remain a serious concern,” MSPB wrote in the report. “In both 1992 and 2010, approximately one-third of the individuals who felt they had been identified as a source of a report of wrongdoing also perceived either threats or acts of reprisal, or both.”

Joe Newman, a spokesman for Project on Government Oversight, a good government group, said the Obama White House could be discouraging would-be whistleblowers.

“We’ve seen some heavy-handed tactics by this administration,” he said. “We’re far away from how we would like to see whistleblowers treated.”

Devine argued OSC has taken major steps in the right direction under its new leadership.

“The agency is operating with more cylinders now than any time since its creation,” he said. “It’s day compared to night.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.