POGO Survey to Provide a More Complete Outsourcing Picture
Private contractors can help government achieve public purposes, but ensuring that the public interest is protected requires clear standards, adequate information and oversight. Today, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) launched a web-based survey designed to examine the federal government’s policies and practices in using private sector contractors to perform services. POGO will solicit responses from federal government and contractor employees to help determine the extent to which the government’s service contracts conform to regulatory standards and are achieving the goals for using private contractors instead of government employees.
The reasons most commonly invoked by the government for outsourcing services include acquiring hard-to-find skills, saving money, and augmenting the federal workforce on a temporary or emergency basis. However, information available from the government about service contracts and the contractor workforce make it difficult to determine whether those goals are being achieved.
According to Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, “contracting has its place, but good management demands that it be used only when it is cost effective and achieves public goals. Each year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on service contracts. Unfortunately, it is unable to ensure that work performed by contractors is as good as work performed by government employees; is in fact cost effective; and protects against fraud, waste, abuse, and unethical conduct. Furthermore, it is unclear whether adequate controls are in place to ensure that contractors are not performing work that is ‘inherently governmental.’ POGO hopes this survey will provide a more comprehensive picture of the government’s outsourcing efforts.”
POGO’s survey is organized into several sections. Respondents will be prompted to answer only the section that pertains to their particular job skills and/or work experience. Persons with experience on federal service contracts are invited to respond to POGO’s survey, which is posted on the Web at www.pogo.org. We will publish the results of the survey next year.
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.# # #
Comment on Rulemaking - Safety Conscious Work Environment/DOE
Tom Carpenter, HanfordChallenge.org
Submit Your Public Comment on Protecting Nuclear Whistleblowers at DOE
Deadline: Dec 15, 2009
Protecting freedom of speech for workers when it comes to raising safety, health and environmental concerns has long been a concern at the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities.
Employees are the first line of defense for safe and effective operation of the facility, including the efforts to remediate the long-lasting and deadly legacy of plutonium production.
The U.S. Department of Energy has requested comment on a proposed rule submitted by Hanford Challenge to establish a Safety Conscious Work Environment. This is a formal program adopted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to ensure that employees are free to raise concerns internally without fear of reprisal. Failure to maintain such an atmosphere on the part of an NRC licensee can result in fines and a suspension of the operating license. The NRC audits commercial nuclear facilities and takes action if it finds that a nuclear operator has a “chilled working environment” that discourages the raising of issues.
The nuclear weapons complex has a long and inglorious history of reprisals against workers who raised concerns. A recent example was the $7 million jury verdict against Hanford contractor Fluor Federal Services after 11 pipefitters filed complaints following their terminations for refusing to install a questionable valve in a radioactive waste piping system.
A Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE) is defined as an environment in which employees are encouraged to raise concerns, where concerns are promptly reviewed, given the proper priority based on their safety significance, and appropriately resolved with timely feedback to employees. Attributes of a SCWE include (1) a management attitude that promotes employee involvement and confidence in raising and resolving concerns; (2) a clearly communicated management policy where safety has utmost priority, overriding the demands of production and project schedules; (3) a strong, independent quality assurance organization and program; (4) a training program that encourages a positive attitude toward safety; and (5) a safety ethic at all levels characterized by an inherently questioning attitude, attention to detail, prevention of complacency, commitment to excellence, and accountability in safety matters.
“The public relies on employees to come forward with issues that might affect human health and safety, the environment, and efficient use of government resources. Such employees deserve strong and effective protections against reprisal, and the government should make sure that there is free-flow of information from workers so that problems are addressed at an early stage and effectively,” states Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of Hanford Challenge.
Public comment is now being taken by the DOE. We urge all who believe in protecting workplace free speech and protecting safety and health to comment on this Rule by DECEMBER 15, 2009.
For a copy of the Rulemaking Petition, check the Federal Register website: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-24929.htm