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
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,”
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.