A new report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel on transparency initiatives merits a standalone mention.
In OSC’s words, the agency “seeks to leverage its limited resources to create a more transparent and accountable federal workplace.” The effort is detailed in Open Government Plan for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, issued earlier this month.
The report “describes many of OSC’s current efforts and initiatives to promote openness within our agency and the federal government.” It goes on to say that it “provides a foundation for dialogue around new and better ways for OSC to serve federal employees and the public.” Finally, OSC affirms that it “strives to help agencies create an environment that embraces whistleblowers and responds effectively to employee disclosures.”
Does the report describe a credible effort at achieving these goals? Let’s take a closer look.
Some of the initiatives taken by OSC include the re-launch of its website; collaboration with Harvard’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program, which provided suggestions for how OSC can improve its alternative dispute resolution program; collaboration with federal agencies via the WPEA-mandated Inspector General whistleblower ombudsman program; a memorandum of understanding with the EEOC concerning enforcement of anti-discrimination issues; collaboration with non-profit stakeholders to solicit input; and certification of agencies’ efforts to educate their workforce on whistleblower rights.
Notable reforms include the posting of redacted reports on prohibited personnel practices within the federal government–the first of which, released last month, relates to addressing LGBT discrimination in the Army.
In news close to this author’s heart, OSC is transitioning to a new electronic system for processing FOIA requests, called FOIAXpress, which it says will increase its response rate and reduce delays and backlogs. The new system will allow the public to submit FOIA requests electronically and track progress and receive responsive records via a web portal. And starting in FY 2015, OSC will begin making FOIA request logs available on its website.
Additional reforms also include lengthening the time OSC holds onto official records; seeking approval for a new disposition schedule from NARA; and formalizing records disposition and destruction, including separately preserving “permanent electronic records” of the Special Counsel and the Principal Deputy Special Counsel.
All told, these reforms are a positive step to increase public confidence in OSC and its efforts to create a welcoming environment for whistleblowers and conscientious federal employees.
Full disclosure: OSC is currently investigating this author’s PPP complaint against the Federal Aviation Administration.