The Department of Defense Inspector General (DODIG) takes too long to investigate allegations of whistleblower retaliation, and can’t entirely ensure the integrity of its probes into reprisals.
Those are the findings of a Government Accountability Office report released on Tuesday, reviewing the quality of the DODIG’s casework on behalf civilian and contractor employees who reported abuse following their act of whistleblowing.
The GAO audit spanned from 2013 to 2015, and found that the inspector general’s office “did not meet statutory or internal timeliness goals for more than 83 percent” of the nearly 1,200 whistleblower reprisal investigations it launched.
The watchdog noted that DODIG did implement new procedures during the three years of the audit to improve efficiency of their reviews, but were still conducting probes that were “significantly longer than the established timeliness goals.”
For example, statute dictates that the IG’s office close out retaliation probes involving DOD contractors and subcontractors within 180 days. But in 2015, it took the office 285 days on average to conduct its investigations.
The watchdog also found that DODIG is likely unaware of potential biases and threats to independence of within the office. GAO reported that more than a quarter of investigators interviewed said they had observed acts, which “demonstrate bias on the part of one or more whistleblower reprisal unit staff or management.”
Those reports, “if true.” GAO stated, “indicate a climate that may not be consistently favorable to independent and objective investigations.”
Adding more fuel to the notion that something is amiss with DODIG, auditors found key documentation and critical data completely missing from some of the case files it reviewed.
The inspector general’s office concurred with all seven recommendations made by GAO.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the House of Representatives began consideration of a measure to boost whistleblower safeguards for federal employees, and punish supervisors for retaliation. The legislation, known as the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act, was named after a former Veterans Affairs psychologist who was fired after blowing the whistle on the overmedicating of US war vets.
The measure passed the Senate by unanimous consent in May.