The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday, marking a positive leap forward for federal employees who expose fraud, waste, and abuse in the government. The bill, which was unanimously approved by the House in September in a pro forma session, now moves to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
According to the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the legislation expands protections for exposing wrongdoing, ensures fair processes for whistleblowers, and addresses administrative authority to oversee whistleblower protection, among other issues.
The legislation does not extend as far as it could, however. It leaves out members of the intelligence and national security communities, and it does not give jury-trial rights to enforce protections.
President Obama issued a Presidential Policy Directive in October aimed at providing more whistleblower protections, which includes some key provisions this legislation is lacking. While President Obama’s actions are helpful, as Sunlight and others said at the time, legislation will be needed to ensure these protections.
Transparency groups have been advocating for Congress to approve whistleblower protections for more than a decade. POGO Public Policy Director Angela Canterbury singled out Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) as a champion of the legislation, along with a bipartisan group of key members in the House and Senate who helped pass the bill.
GAP and POGO issued statements on the important protections provided by the WPEA. The Union of Concerned Scientists also explained how the legislation will help federal scientists. For more information on whistleblowing, watch this panel discussion held by the Advisory Committee on Transparency.