Turns out the final language included in the agreed-upon stimulus bill does indeed include protections for employees of government contractors — like KBR, Halliburton, etc. — who report fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer money, even if they report within their own company rather than to an outside government agency.
As I reported earlier, that protection was left out of an earlier version of the bill, leaving employees of the contractors that are handling billions of dollars of stimulus money vulnerable to being fired for reporting misconduct within their company. An amendment by Senator Claire McCaskill fixed that problem.
The final language is here.
Still, federal employees, despite almost a decade of internal congressional wrangling about the problem, remain wholly unprotected. Although Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) had proposed a bi-partisan provision on this that the House had adopted, the Senate conferees rejected it, apparently over concerns that providing protections for intelligence employees could somehow end up revealing classified information if they brought retaliation claims.
Tom Devine, legal director for the non-profit Government Accountability Project, is hoping to see federal employee protections in the near future. (There’s a bill on this already pending in the Senate, though as it stands now it still wouldn’t cover intelligence workers or provide jury trials.).
“It is not too late for accountability,” Devine said in a statement released today. “After nearly ten years of hearings and votes, there is no excuse to spend nearly a trillion dollars without safe passage for federal employees who risk their careers to keep it honest.”
Congress could still lock in federal whistleblowers protections before the money starts getting spent in 120 days, he said, adding: “The politicians owe it to the taxpayers.”