Secrecy News

Govt Employees Turn to OSC in Record Numbers

Federal employees turned to the Office of Special Counsel in record numbers last year to file complaints of whistleblower retaliation, prohibited personnel practices, and other violations of law and policy.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal agency whose “primary mission is to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing.” It has been led by Special Counsel Carolyn N. Lerner since 2011.

“Fiscal year (FY) 2014 was a record-breaking year for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC),” according to the FY 2014 OSC annual report that was transmitted to Congress last month.

“For the first time, OSC received over 5,000 cases, a 17 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. The number of prohibited personnel practice (PPP) complaints was also at an all-time high, 3,371, nearly a thousand more than just four years prior. We also received significantly more whistleblower disclosures in FY 2014 than in past years.”

OSC said it has effectively intervened in a growing number of cases, which tends to inspire even more complaints to be filed, perhaps to the point of unsustainability.

“The number of favorable outcomes for whistleblowers and other employees across the government continues to break all-time records,” the report said. “OSC secured 177 favorable outcomes in 2014 helping to restore the careers of courageous public servants who blew the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse, or encountered another form of prohibited conduct in the government. This total represents an increase of 185 percent over six years ago.”

“These victories for whistleblowers, the taxpayers, and the merit system showcase OSC’s effectiveness and increase awareness of the agency in the federal community. As a result, the number of employees seeking OSC’s assistance continues to grow, posing daunting challenges to the agency.”

“We anticipate receiving over 6,000 new cases in FY 2015, more than a 60 percent increase over the ten-year averaged annual case load level. OSC already faces the largest case backlog in agency history,” the OSC annual report said.

One thought on “Govt Employees Turn to OSC in Record Numbers

  1. I have a very different view of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) than its own fawning press releases. When I worked at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), I was the victim of a bogus complaint sent to the OSC by a seriously-troubled employee who worked in one of the offices for which I was responsible. This same employee had filed other complaints to the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (IG). Every one of these complaints were found to be baseless and dismissed. But this did not stop this employee from carrying on a campaign of harassment against agency management.

    One day, we caught this employee falsifying a regulatory enforcement case by whiting out entries on training records, xeroxing the altered records, and then submitting them as proof for the case. For this offense, he was suspended without pay for one week. He should have been fired for egregious wrongdoing. But firing a federal employee is too often a “bridge too far” for most agencies.

    When this employee returned from suspension, I gave him a short-term project related to his job description but which he did not wish to do. So, he went to the OSC and filed a complaint against me claiming that the assignment was “retaliation” because of his past “whistle blower” complaints. This silly allegation was taken up fully by the OSC which quickly proved that they are not about discovering the truth but rather are about building cases against management in order to justify their existence. I had to hire my own attorney to defend against these absurd charges because my agency did not provide counsel in cases referred to the OSC (only to defend the agency itself). The case dragged on and was personally very frustrating.

    In my many years of federal civil service, including stints in management, I found department IG’s to be independent, impartial, and thorough in their investigations of wrongdoing within government agencies. The OSC, by contrast, is not only unnecessary, but is itself an example of fraud, waste, and abuse and should be abolished.

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