On March 2, 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report highlighting necessary improvements to effectively implement the Whistleblower Protections Pilot Program (WPPP). The WPPP, introduced in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and made permanent by Congress in December 2016, expanded whistleblower rights against reprisal for employees of contractors, subcontractors, and grantees. That same year, the FAR was also amended to require contracting officials to include a contract clause requiring contractors to communicate to their employees their rights under the WPPP in contracts exceeding the simplified acquisition threshold and awarded after September 30, 2013. The WPPP also required agencies use best efforts to include the FAR clause in major contract modifications of existing contracts.
Before the enactment of the WPPP, only employees of defense contractors and certain civilian executive agencies enjoyed whistleblower reprisal protections. The WPPP expanded the class of employees protected to include grantee and subcontractor employees of 14 executive departments. The program also added more entities and individuals to whom whistleblowers could disclose suspected wrongdoing. If a whistleblower believes she/he has experienced reprisal and submits a reprisal complaint, the WPPP requires the executive agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to determine whether an investigation is needed and, if so, to investigate the reprisal complaint and submit a report to the agency head within 180 days. The agency head must make a determination within 30 days and either issue an order denying relief or issue an order granting relief, as appropriate.
GAO evaluated and reported on the WPPP pursuant to a provision in the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2013. GAO surveyed the OIG at the 14 executive departments covered by the program: Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. During the July 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015 period, the OIGs received 1,560 reprisal complaints. The OIGs determined that the WPPP applied to 127 of the reprisal complaints, investigated 44 of those complaints, and determined that the remainder of the complaints did not need to be investigated for various reasons. None of the OIGs’ investigations resulted in findings that substantiated reprisal. Continue Reading