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IGs Should Do a Better Job of Helping Whistleblowers

POGO jabs Homeland Security, USAID and Railroad Board for failing to provide information about protections.

Several agencies are falling short on compliance with the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act’s requirements for posting information about internal ombudsman programs, a whistleblower advocacy nonprofit has found.

A survey of websites of 72 inspectors general conducted by the Project on Government Oversight faulted the IGs at the Homeland Security Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Railroad Retirement Board for publicizing “little to no information” about the whistleblower programs on their websites.

POGO praised the departments of Agriculture, Labor and Justice for offering easy access and clear descriptions of ombudsman’s role in addressing whistleblower rights and protections against retaliation. Analysts noted that IGs at the Defense and Transportation departments and other agencies identify their whistleblower ombudsman and provide email addresses or phone numbers so employees may easily contact them.

Some agencies went beyond the law’s requirements. The Education Department IG, for example, must investigate claims of retaliation brought by contractors, subcontractors and grantees. The State Department offers special instructions for employees with access to classified information, and some agencies not required to advertise ombudsmen did so anyway—the National Science Foundation and the International Trade Commission, POGO noted.

“Although the Railroad Retirement Board may not have the same prominence or influence as DHS or USAID, it has the important task of administering insurance benefits for U.S. railroad workers,” the analysts said. “This is an area that is ripe for fraud and needs employees who aren’t afraid to blow the whistle when they see misconduct.”

(Image via Blanscape/