Whistleblower laws overdue
The state Legislature has given Pennsylvanians an overdue present, passing two important government reform bills to extend whistleblower protection to employees of government contractors and employees of the Legislature.
The public purse is a little safer and the state Legislature more accountable and ethical due to these new safeguards. We applaud the General Assembly and look forward to Gov. Tom Corbett signing these bills.
When billions of dollars of federal economic stimulus money flowed through Pennsylvania in 2009, this “new money” was distributed quickly through new programs, creating the potential for abuse, fraud and waste. Common Cause Pennsylvania noted this problem early on and pointed out those closest to the problem — employees of government contractors — were not protected by the state whistleblower law.
Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler Co., then championed this legislation.
The scandals in the state Legislature pointed out another loophole in the whistleblower law — legislative employees were not protected by it. Many employees knew of the illicit goings-on, but feared for their jobs and did not report them to authorities.
If these new protections had been in effect eight years ago, the damage to state government might have been diminished, the cost to taxpayers reduced and fewer people prosecuted.
No one should fear losing his or her job for reporting illegal activities. Hopefully these new laws will encourage more civic-minded people to take necessary action.
Barry L. Kauffman
The writer is the executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.