If you are a Federal employee, or employee of a contractor, subcontractor, or grantee submitting information to the SBA OIG regarding fraud waste or abuse in the SBA’s programs or operations, you are probably a whistleblower. Please be aware, however that specific criteria apply to whistleblower protections afforded by law. For example, disclosures by current and former federal employees, applicants for federal employment, and employees of a federal contractor, subcontractor, or grantee have special meaning and protections.
Federal law prohibits governmental personnel from retaliating against an employee who acts as a whistleblower by reporting suspected waste, fraud or abuse to the OIG. Under the Federal prohibited personnel practices, 5 U.S.C. §2302(b)(8), employees may not “take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action with respect to any employee or applicant for employment” because the person has disclosed information to an OIG which he or she reasonably believes is evidence of (1) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or (2) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, so long as the disclosure is not specifically prohibited by law or Executive Order.
Whistleblower disclosures can save lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars. They play a critical role in keeping our government honest, efficient and accountable. Recognizing that whistleblowers root out waste, fraud and abuse, and protect public health and safety, federal laws strongly encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing. Federal laws also protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General, has established a Whistleblower Coordinator to educate SBA employees about prohibitions on retaliation for whistleblowing, as well as employees' rights and remedies if anyone retaliates against them for making a protected disclosure (i.e. "Whistleblowing").
Employees can contact the Whistleblower Coordinator, Patricia H. Cullum, at OIGOmbudsman@sba.gov. Employees should know that the Whistleblower Coordinator will not act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate of the employee or former employee.
The Whistleblower Protection Coordinator's primary roles are:
- Educate all SBA employees, including contractors, subcontractors, grantees, sub-grantees, on reporting fraud, waste, and abuse within the SBA, without fear of reprisal.
- Educate all SBA employees on the means through which they can seek review of any allegation of reprisal and on the roles that the Office of Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and other relevant entities that play in investigating reprisal allegations.
- Provide general information about the timeline for reprisal cases, the availability of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and other avenues for potential relief.
- Assist the Inspector General in promoting the timely and appropriate handling and consideration of protected disclosures and allegations of reprisal.
Office of Special Counsel
Employees who believe that they have been subjected to a prohibited personnel practice, including retaliation for making a disclosure to an OIG, can file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which is an independent Federal agency. The complaint can be filed by contacting the OSC Complaints Examining Unit (1-800-872-9855) or by going to OSC’s website, www.osc.gov. If OSC opens an investigation, and finds sufficient evidence to prove a violation, OSC can seek corrective action, disciplinary action, or both.
Merit Systems Protection Board
Employees may also seek corrective action if subjected to any adverse personnel action because of whistleblowing by filing an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Appeals from adverse actions listed in 5 CFR § 1201.3 can be filed directly with the MSPB. Other appeals can only be filed if the employee first seeks corrective action from OSC. More information can be found on the MSPB's Questions and Answers About Whistleblower Appeals page.
Section 1553 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) extends similar protections to employees of non-Federal employers (such as employees of state and local government or contractors) relating to contracts, grants and other Federal disbursements of money appropriated by the Recovery Act (“covered funds”). That statute provides that an employee of any non-Federal employer receiving covered funds may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for disclosing, including a disclosure made in the ordinary course of an employee’s duties, to an inspector general information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of:
- gross mismanagement of an agency contract or grant relating to covered funds;
- a gross waste of covered funds;
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety related to the implementation or use of covered funds;
- an abuse of authority related to the implementation or use of covered funds; or
- a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to an agency contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant, awarded or issued relating to covered funds.
Under the Recovery Act, the OIG has jurisdiction to investigate whistleblower complaints alleging reprisal for protected disclosures relating to Small Business Administration Recovery Act funds. To file a complaint, you can submit your report using our Online Complaint Submission System or by calling the OIG Hotline toll-free at (800) 767-0385.
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Whistleblower Retaliation Poster
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Whistleblowing Poster
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Prohibited Personnel Practices Poster
- Hatch Act Rules on Political Activity
- Hatch Act Permitted and Prohibited Activities
- OIG Hotline Poster
- OIG Whistleblower Poster
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs Poster
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel Your Rights as a Federal Employee