GAO hits DOJ over whistleblower complaints

The Department of Justice needs to do a better job of handling whistleblower complaints in the Federal Bureau of Investigations, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report, released Monday, said DOJ dismissed 48 of 62 FBI whistleblower complaints because the complainant failed to meet certain regulatory requirements. Seventeen, for instance, were terminated because the complaint was made to someone not authorized to receive the disclosure.

“The FBI and Department of Justice, in particular, have a vested interest in investigating wrongdoing, yet when an FBI employee uncovers misconduct within the agency’s own ranks, it’s not so easy to sound the alarm without the risk of retaliation,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden confronts sinking poll numbers Congress needs to push for more accountability in gymnasts' tragic sex abuse Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour MORE (R-Iowa) said in a statement.  “This report confirms that reforms are needed to empower whistleblowers at FBI and ensure they are effectively and efficiently protected against retaliation in the workplace.”


The report also found that DOJ took two to 10.6 years to resolve four complaints, but did not give complainants estimates for when to expect a decision.

In 2002, GAO said a former FBI agent alleged she suffered retaliation after disclosing that colleagues had stolen items from Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It took DOJ 10 years to rule in her favor after she reported the retaliation.  

"Unlike employees of other executive branch agencies, FBI employees do not have a process to seek corrective action if they experience retaliation based on a disclosure of wrongdoing to their supervisors or others in their chain of command who are not designated officials,"the report found.

GAO recommended DOJ issue new guidance that clearly conveys to whom employees can make complaints, provide those who complain with timeframes for when decisions about a claim will be made and develop an oversight mechanism to monitor regulatory compliance.