OSC Stresses New Requirement for Agencies to Cooperate

The Office of Special Counsel has called attention to new requirements for agencies to cooperate with its investigations into whistleblower disclosures and complaints of retaliation and other forms of prohibited personnel practices, the latest in a series of such changes signed into law.

It stressed that OSC reauthorization language contained in the recently signed DoD budget “clarifies that when complying with OSC’s information requests, federal agencies may not withhold information and documents from OSC by asserting common law privileges such as attorney-client privilege.

“Several agencies have invoked attorney-client privilege to withhold information and documents vital to OSC’s whistleblower retaliation investigations. The issue was the subject of a congressional hearing in March. Both the House and Senate committee reports on the new legislation make clear that Congress always intended for OSC to have full access to conduct its investigations. The reauthorization measure re-asserts OSC’s ability to obtain needed information and documents,” the statement said.

The measure also “improves protections against retaliatory investigations and other forms of reprisal for whistleblowing, and requires managers across the federal government to respond appropriately to disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse. It comes after the enactment of the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which enhanced disciplinary penalties for supervisors who engage in whistleblower retaliation, among other key improvements,” it said.