POLICY

Whistleblower protections extended to contractors

The Office of Special Counsel announced today it intends to allow contractors to file whistleblower disclosures and also receive protections for the disclosures.

OSC’s proposed rule-change is based on a pilot program included in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal 2013. It became law Jan. 2, 2013.

The legislation created the program to enhance statutory protections when a contractor who is working at a civilian agency blows the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse on federal contracts.

OSC said it also would receive disclosures from current and former contractors who allege retaliation for disclosing information if they work, or worked, on behalf of an agency in which federal employees are eligible to file disclosures.

The federal government has become so reliant on contractors for operations that the government employees and private-sector employees are doing the same work beside to each other. OSC wrote in its Federal Register notice that this is the next step to take after laws deputized federal employees “as insiders” to call out wrongdoing.

“In the modern workforce, employees of contractors, subcontractors, and grantees often work alongside federal employees, having similar if not identical duties. Thus contractors are similarly situated to observe or experience the same type of wrongdoing as are Federal employees,” OSC wrote.

As a result, a contractor’s disclosure likely will have the same degree of reliability as a federal employee, OSC wrote.

If OSC would determine a contractor’s disclosure is likely, the Special Counsel would refer the information to the relevant agency head. The agency official would then be required to conduct an investigation.

The disclosure rule would only apply to agencies over which OSC has jurisdiction, and it would remain in effect as long as the NDAA's pilot program is in force, according to the notice.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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