In a federal agency, it is important for individuals to be able to come forward with evidence of illegal, unethical or otherwise problematic activity. In 2013, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel launched their Second Open Government National Action Plan, with the goal of establishing a more open culture in these agencies. However, there is still plenty of work to be done in continuing to encourage a more trusting and transparent environment.
A “VICTIM OF ITS OWN SUCCESS”
Earlier this month, the OSC sent a letter to more than 100 federal agencies reminding them to register for their certification program. This certification has been described as “an important first step in establishing an open culture where legitimate concerns are addressed” by Carolyn Lerner, head of the OSC.
The OSC saw a double-digit growth in use of its services in 2015 for the second consecutive year, a fact which the Office attributes to their increased efforts. By making it safer for more whistleblowers to come forward, the OSC has seen a huge increase in their workload, essentially becoming a “victim of its own success.”
A BETTER SOLUTION
Ricardo J.A. Pitts-Wiley, an attorney here at The Federal Practice Group, shared some suggestions on how the OSC can reduce their workload while still accomplishing their mission. In short, training is key.
Pitts-Wiley’s suggestion, quoted by Federal News Radio, is simple – he would like to see these federal agencies train existing employees in the same way they train new employees during orientation. “By providing the same information and training to all employees … it would foster an environment where self-policing is encouraged,” Pitts-Wiley said.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
While the plan enacted by the Office of Special Counsel is far from perfect, it is still “a great initiative” in the words of Attorney Pitts-Wiley, and “a really good start.” The sheer increase in whistleblowers over the last two years is evidence that the plan is working, and suggests that there are likely many other federal employees who are unwilling or afraid to step forward. With future work by the OSC and federal attorneys such as our own Ricardo J.A. Pitts-Wiley, we will continue to usher in a new era of safety and transparency in these agencies.
To see Attorney Pitts-Wiley quoted in Federal News Radio, read the full article by clicking here.