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MSPB Watch Invites Public to Form Citizen Oversight Council to Oversee Federal Agencies’ Compliance with Civil Service Laws

9:20 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

Premised on the notion that you must be the change you want to see in the world, MSPB Watch is seeking partners to adopt–in civilian form–the duties of an inspector general for the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board. Currently no formal, independent IG exists for either agency.

MSPB Watch is inviting any interested member of the public to form a citizen oversight council. Duties include researching applicable civil service laws and obtaining public information to determine whether OSC and MSPB are complying with these laws. Once formed, the Council would issue regular report cards on OSC’s and MSPB’s performance; make recommendations for reform; conduct “peer review” for any proposed legal or political campaigns to redress grievances; attempt to engage in formal dialogue with government officials; and provide support for any appropriate member initiatives.

Other initiatives could include “teach ins” to educate whistleblowers, federal employees, and the public about their rights under civil service laws.

Interested persons may contact David Pardo at dpardo at mspbwatch dot net for more information.

The Office of Special Counsel Needs an Inspector General

7:07 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

The Office of Special Counsel does not have an inspector general. In fact, it was only in 2008 (30 years after its founding) that OSC was given some measure of oversight, with an amendment to the IG Act of 1978 that allows complaints against the Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel to be brought before the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

MSPB Watch has attempted to launch citizen oversight of OSC via a number of various FOIA requests. The earliest one, still pending, was made more than a year ago, on Dec. 15, 2011. After a number of rolling completion dates, this request is now scheduled for completion for the end of January 2013. It bears repeating that the Freedom of Information Act requires agencies to provide responsive documents within twenty days. An ambitious schedule, to be sure, but waiting a year or more for documents is problematic.

It’s even more problematic when one considers that OSC is tasked with investigating and prosecuting arbitrary and capricious withholding of FOIA documents. While no implication regarding motive is intended in the present case, OSC cannot credibly work to ensure transparency within other agencies if its own transparency and adherence to the FOIA are found lacking.

The counterargument, of course, is lack of resources, prioritization, caseloads, etc. But the case needs to be made that more resources are needed. Programs and policies need to be audited and evaluated, and recommendations need to be put into reports that are then taken into serious consideration by Congress. The basic fact is that citizen oversight, limited as it is, does not work if access to information is restricted by prolonged delays.

Update: An OSC official told MSPB Watch Dec. 20 that

OSC does not have an IG. At a time of diminished resources and a significant increase in work in all program areas, OSC is not able to create an IG position. That being said, OSC reviews program effectiveness and efficiency on an ongoing basis and issues various reports, including the recently issued Performance and Accountability report, which is posted at http://osc.gov/RR_PerformanceAndAccountabilityReports.htm. In the future, OSC might contract with other IGs to perform certain services.

White House issues policy directive [promises?] national security employees whistleblower protections

5:36 am in Uncategorized by MSPB Watch

gate

(photo: Scott Ableman / flickr)

Update: apparently this directive doesn’t “grant” protections so much as promises them, or something. See the comments below.

Here is a copy of the directive [PDF], obtained from federalnewsradio.com. Here is some background about what it entails:

“Protected disclosure” is defined in this document as follows (emphasis added):

(5) The term “Protected Disclosure” means:

(a) a disclosure of information by the employee to a supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command up to and including the head of the employing agency, to the Inspector General of the employing agency or Intelligence Community Element, to the Director of National Intelligence, to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, or to an employee designated by any of the above officials for the purpose of receiving such disclosures, that the employee reasonably believes evidences (i) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or (ii) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;

(b) any communication described by and that complies with subsection (a)(1), (d), or (h) of section 8H of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.); subsection (d)(5)(A) of section 17 of the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 (50 U.S.C. 403q); or subsection (k)(5)(A), (D), or (G), of section l03H of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 403-3h);

(c) the exercise of any appeal, complaint, or grievance with regard to the violation of Section A or B of this directive;

(d) lawfully participating in an investigation or proceeding regarding a violation of Section A or B of this directive; or

(e) cooperating with or disclosing information to an Inspector General, in accordance with applicable provisions of law in connection with an audit, inspection, or investigation conducted by the Inspector General,

if the actions described under subparagraphs (c) through (e) do not result in the employee disclosing classified information or other information contrary to law.

This raises an interesting question: why doesn’t this definition include the Office of Special Counsel as an authorized recipient of (presumably classified) information?

After all, OSC is authorized by law to receive classified disclosures. So where does it fit in with this new scheme? In fact, OSC appears only once, in a discussion regarding assessing the efficacy of provisions deterring retaliation, on page 5. Why not educate employees about the OSC option? The document calls on national security officials to provide guidance for individual officers or employees regarding what disclosures are protected (also on page 5).

For more on this issue, see the following: