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Protecting Red Tape

My recent story on General Services Administration head Lurita Doan looked at how some GSA employees must choose between blowing the whistle on misconduct and holding their nose until Doan leaves. Most employees I spoke with have chosen the second option- after all if Doan is sticking around, why make waves and, in turn, your job really unpleasant?

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) says he’s trying to help these employees by making it easier to blow the whistle. A Congressional hearing today debated the merits of Grassley’s “The False Claims Act Correction Act: Strengthening The Government’s Most Effective Tool Against Fraud for the 21st Century.” Grassley is looking to strengthen the act by giving whistleblowers who sue the government up to a 25 percent portion of the proceeds for a winning case.

Many of these cases revolve around private contractors overcharging the government. Grassley is familiar with these instances of waste, thanks in part to his investigation of the aborted contract between the GSA and Sun Microsystems.

Last October, Grassley took to the Senate floor and read from a report that found Doan intimidated employees by making clear she was friends with lobbyists for Sun. It also concluded Sun charged millions more to the government than they had charged private consumers. Grassley called on the inspector general to look into the Sun Microsystems contract, but the company abruptly canceled their GSA contract. It turns out they preferred to end the contract than go through a GSA inspector general’s audit.

The story also involved a whistleblower who never was. A contracting officer stood up to Doan and refused to approve the contract. But Doan then simply reassigned him and named a new officer, who did approve it.

What became of this first contracting officer? If Grassley’s reform is effective, such anonymous bureaucrats will have sufficient incentive to make themselves known.

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