WIN-WIN? One state delegate is trying to expand whistleblower protections and privileges beyond just government employees so all Virginians can report waste, fraud and abuse — and maybe get a reward.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — How would you like to report government fraud, waste or abuse, protect more of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars and, on top of that, earn a reward?
Well, it could happen, if a bill by Republican Delegate James LeMunyon from Chantilly passes to expand whistle-blower protections and privileges to all Virginia citizens. As current law stands, legal protections — and an up to a 10 percent reward — only apply to state government employees who report tangible evidence or eye-witness testimony information that leads to the state recovering misused money.
LeMunyon said expanding that is a win-win scenario.
“It lets every citizen of Virginia be a whistle-blower, get protections that are in current law against retribution, but also a share of any monetary recovery that the state might be able to make,” LeMunyon told Watchdog.org. “So right now, current law says if you’re a state employee and you blow the whistle and the state over the course of time recovers $100,000, you get to keep 10 percent of that. So this would say if a private citizen blows the whistle and the state recovers $100,000, a private citizen can keep 10 percent of that.”
With so many contractors, business folks and concerned citizens invested in the state’s dealings, Virginia will likely uncover more cases and recover more cash, he said.
“When you look at how many people touch or see the flow of state funds, I argue that it’s likely that a significant number, maybe even most of them, are not state employees,” LeMunyon added. “But they still watch how the money’s spent or if it’s misspent can know that, too. So that’s why we want to expand it.”
With Virginia planning to spend more than ever over the next two-year budget — roughly $95 billion — there’s plenty at stake.
Expanding the whistle-blower law would probably mean more costs in terms of the workload of the Office of the State Inspector General, which handles complaints and cases. But that would probably be offset by the likely boost in recovered dollars, since recoveries help fund that office.
The new definition of a “whistle-blower” would include “a citizen of the commonwealth who witnesses or has evidence of wrongdoing or abuse and who makes or demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that he is about to make a good faith report of, or testifies or is about to testify to, the wrongdoing or abuse to an appropriate authority,” according to LeMunyon’s addition to Virginia’s Fraud and Abuse Whistle Blower Protection Act.
Virginians could likely use the same reporting system available to government employees — the fraud, waste and abuse hotline.
It looks like LeMunyon will get his wish.
The bill moved unopposed through sub and full committees this week, and is making its way through the House before likely gong to the Senate for a vote.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org, and can be reached at email@example.com.
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