DOJ’s Inspector General Says More Subpoena Power Needed to Protect Whistleblowers

January 28, 2020 by Dan McCue
The Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice’s chief internal investigator told a House panel on Tuesday that he and his colleagues across federal departments need more subpoena power to help protect whistleblowers alleging fraud and other malfeasance.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz offered that assessment in an appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform subcommittee on government operations.

Horowitz, who is also chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, described what he called “testimonial subpoena authority” one of that group’s “primary legislative priorities.”

“Without testimonial subpoena authority, an employee’s resignation or retirement can substantially hamper an IG audit, investigation, or other review into matters pertaining to that individual’s former responsibilities, including any action taken against a whistleblower,” he said.

“My office and others throughout the IG community continue to encounter situations where not having this authority results in our inability to obtain important and relevant information from former employees in connection with our whistleblower investigations,” he said.

“Our efforts to promote accountability and deter future misconduct are hampered by our inability to receive testimony from former employees.” 

Horowitz noted that in the 40 years since the passage of the Inspector General Act in 1978, information provided by whistleblowers has played a central role in the ability of Inspectors General to conduct non-partisan, independent oversight of federal programs and operations.

“Accordingly,” he said, “one of my highest priorities, and a critical CIGIE initiative, has been to educate federal employees about the importance of whistleblowing, and to ensure that those who blow the whistle are protected from retaliation.

“The Inspector General community believes that individuals who bring information about waste, fraud, abuse, and gross mismanagement to our offices should be lauded for working within the laws, rules, and regulations that have long existed to encourage and protect whistleblowers,” he said.

Toward that end, CIGIE worked with the Office of Special Counsel to launch a new whistleblower protection web page.

The page provides an interactive form to assist potential whistleblowers in determining where to make a protected disclosure or file a retaliation claim – to an OIG, the OSC, or some other entity.

The site also provides informational resources for individuals in various sectors, including government employees, government contractors and grantees, those in the military, and private-sector individuals. 

Returning to the subject of increasing the subpoena power of Inspectors General, Horowitz said he and his counterparts in government have a responsibility to conduct a thorough and independent assessment of the facts.

“OIG whistleblower investigations not only seek justice on behalf of individual whistleblowers but also seek to deter potential future reprisals and promote accountability for those who have retaliated or engaged in other misconduct,” he said.

“To effectively conduct such investigations, OIGs must have access to all relevant testimony and witnesses, including individuals who may resign or retire during an OIG reprisal investigation,” he said.

Currently only the Department of Defense OIG has the authority to compel testimony from former agency employees in such investigations. Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act, S. 3177, which would grant the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG similar subpoena authority.

Horowitz said he’d like Congress to give these powers to all Inspectors General.

“The IG community understands the potential concerns with granting OIGs such an authority. Accordingly, we support incorporating controls to ensure this authority is exercised properly,” he said.

In The News

Health

Voting

Employment

US Employment Situation Improves Slowly but Surely
Employment
US Employment Situation Improves Slowly but Surely
May 7, 2021
by Victoria Turner

With the US unemployment rate essentially unchanged from March to April from 6.0% to 6.1% respectively, the American state of employment seems to continue on its positive track, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest report.  Employment in nonfarm jobs increased by 266,000 in April,... Read More

House Panel Discusses VA Diversification Efforts
Employment
House Panel Discusses VA Diversification Efforts
May 6, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - By late 2020 over 2800 formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaints of discrimination - by race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and more - were submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The fact that there are that many complaints in one year points... Read More

Republicans Claim $15 Minimum Wage Would Hurt U.S. Jobs and Businesses
Congress
Republicans Claim $15 Minimum Wage Would Hurt U.S. Jobs and Businesses
May 3, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The Biden administration’s pledge to up the wages and fair labor standards of low-income workers hit a roadblock among Republicans during a congressional hearing Monday. The intentions are good but the economics are bad, according to critics who say the plan would backfire by... Read More

Biden to Sign $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Workers
White House
Biden to Sign $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to sign an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal contractors, providing a pay bump to hundreds of thousands of workers.Biden administration officials said ahead of Tuesday's signing that the higher wages... Read More

Help Wanted: In Pandemic, Worry About Finding Summer Workers
Employment
Help Wanted: In Pandemic, Worry About Finding Summer Workers

BOSTON (AP) — The owner of seafood restaurants on Cape Cod has eliminated lunch service and delayed the opening of some locations because his summertime influx of foreign workers hasn't arrived yet.  More than a thousand miles away, a Jamaican couple is fretting about whether the... Read More

What Does the PRO Act Really Mean for Freelancers?
In The News
What Does the PRO Act Really Mean for Freelancers?
April 22, 2021
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is a landmark labor rights bill that could transform the way the United States classifies workers. The PRO Act is intended to modernize the National Labor Relations Act but is controversial, especially in the freelance community, for... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top