Washington, D.C. December 5, 2016. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on December 1st to consider proposed changes to the appropriations process that would have a major impact on existing whistleblower laws.
The proposed legislation, H.R. 5499—The Agency Accountability Act, would restrict or prohibit executive agencies from using monies obtained as sanctions to directly pay whistleblowers the awards they are owed for successfully confronting and stopping fraud and corruption.
If this bill were to go forward as written, the consequences for whistleblowers and for the American People would be catastrophic. Congressman Connolly (D-VA) warned of the dangers of the bill, which would move whistleblower awards into the hands of the congressional appropriations process, “How many times has Congress failed to pass an appropriations bill . . . We must ensure that whistleblower rewards are never tied up by an uncertain appropriations process.”
National Whistleblower Center Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn testified before the Committee, pointing to the staggering growth of successful whistleblower cases and the billions of dollars whistleblowers recover every year (you can read his written testimony here for more detail). Kohn emphasized, “Your Committee has a long and distinguished bipartisan record of supporting whistleblowers,” and underscored, “The legislation proposed doesn’t take the reality of whistleblowers into account.”
Fortunately, the Committee was quick to agree. Subcommittee Chairmen Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) immediately promised a “friendly amendment” to the Bill to ensure that whistleblowers would be protected. Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL), the bill’s author, also concurred that whistleblowers would be protected. “Whistleblowers are an absolutely essential part of our work here at the committee.” Meadows noted.