A Senate report calls the 2012 creation of whistleblower ombudsmen in agency IG offices a success but says that time since, experience has shown the potential for the kind of improvements sought in a bill (S-1869) pending before the Senate.
The position was created as an intermediary to ensure that supervisors and leaders within the agency, as well as employees, are aware of prohibited retaliatory actions and employee rights against retaliation for protected disclosures, the report says, and in that role it has been judged a success by agency IG offices and by the GAO. The availability of ombudsmen in all 72 IG offices also led to more collaboration and information sharing among the IG and the Office of Special Counsel, it says.
However, it says that the title “ombudsmen” has led to some misperceptions that the office should be functioning as an advocate for employees, a common role of positions with that title, even though the 2012 law creating those offices specifically prohibited that role. The measure, which has passed the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, would change the name to whistleblower coordinator.
The bill further would make the position permanent; require the coordinator to assist the agency IG to “timely and efficiently investigate” whistleblower disclosures and whistleblower retaliation claim; act as a liaison between IGs, OSC, Congress, or any other entity that is investigating a whistleblower disclosure or retaliation claim “in order to ensure the most efficient use of staff and resources”; and require the IG council to develop best practices for carrying out those responsibilities.