New hope for honest employees

Six years ago, the Merit Systems Protection Board surveyed federal employees about whether they knew of fraud, waste and/or abuse in government through their jobs. The results were alarming: 25 percent of those surveyed stated they knew of federal corruption, but only 30 percent of these people were willing to go public with their knowledge.

Alhough these statistics spell bad news for anyone concerned with honesty in government, they are easy to understand. The vast majority of “whistle blowers” find themselves tormented, harassed or even fired by their bosses after exposing corruption. Wiiliam O’Connor, a federal special counsel for civil service cases, warned potential whistle blowers about the consequences they could suffer unless they were “in a position to retire or (were) independently wealthy.”

Congressional efforts to protect federal employees who expose corruption were stopped last year by then-President Reagan. The former president vetoed a bill that congress had unanimously passed which would have provided increased guarantees of confidentiality for whistle blowers. The bill also would have made it simpler for government employees to prove their firings or demotions were due to their honesty.

Thankfully, the senate approved a very similar bill Thursday by a 97-0 vote, showing once again the urgency of the measure’s passage. House action on the bill could come as early as today, and officials are optimistic about the bill’s chances there, too.

Finally, President Bush has expressed approval of the revamped bill. Perhaps with this new hope for whistle blowers, the protection board’s future stats will record a big change.