President Trump has signed into law (P.L. 115-192) a bill that recently cleared Congress to make permanent whistleblower advocates in agency IG offices and to clarify their roles, including retitling them from “ombudsmen” to “coordinators.”
The position was created in 2012 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 and in that role it has been judged a success by agency IG offices and by the GAO, according to a congressional report on the bill (S-1869). 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 law creating those offices specifically prohibited that role.
The new law further requires the coordinator to assist the IG in investigating whistleblower disclosures and retaliation claims and to act as a liaison between IGs, OSC, Congress, or any other entity that is investigating a whistleblower disclosure or retaliation claim. The IG council is to develop best practices for carrying out those responsibilities.