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Congress improves practices to protect whistleblowers

For a year now, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reviewed the ways that Congress communicated with federal whistleblowers and handled their information. And at the beginning of May, the GAO finally released the updates they plan to make so that they can better protect whistleblowers.

Aiming to reduce whistleblower's anxieties

Every whistleblower gives tips or files reports at great personal risk. They often face backlash from their employers—which is illegal, but sadly frequent. And the possibility of retaliation or defamation can cause high anxiety that dissuades whistleblowers from coming forward.

That is often what employers count on.

And even though there are laws and procedures in place meant to protect whistleblowers, there is, unfortunately, plenty of room for human error. The GAO made these new updates to combat that variable.

The new measures Congressional workers must take

The GAO review identified weak points in the processes Congressional workers use when they work with whistleblowers. And from their report, they assembled tips for Congress to follow, including:

  • Creating a secure system that tracks the progress of whistleblower cases and stores whistleblower information
  • Enforcing efforts to be transparent when discussing the case or options with the whistleblower
  • Asking for and receiving explicit permission from whistleblowers before sharing any information
  • Continuing to check in with the whistleblower as the situation develops

Every tip for Congress is meant to make this process easier for whistleblowers, as well as increase their security during and after the investigation. And while these updates apply to federal whistleblowers now, it is most likely only a matter of time until these new methods extend to all whistleblowers.

What influenced these updates?

Almost anything can be improved. And laws are no different. Improving whistleblower protection is reason enough to add these updates. 

However, it is possible that the GAO took action to increase federal whistleblower protections because of the apparent increase in government whistleblowers.

For example, a whistleblower recently reported about abuse witnessed in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) methods. And just last month a whistleblower went public with their concerns about White House security.

The increase in government whistleblowing could have influenced the GAO's new policies. The GAO states that whistleblowers are an integral part of safeguarding the nation and the government against abuse of power and fraud. And establishing these new steps shows that they stand by this belief to protect the whistleblowers that protect us.

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