Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ethical Govt. as a Campaign Issue

As I mentioned in my first posting, I would like the presidential candidates to tell us how they might "reform/change" government by answering the following question:

"Will you make it safe for government workers to point out
waste, fraud or abuse, without the fear of losing their jobs?"

So I have an idea on how to get the presidential candidates to start talking about this, and I would like to know what you think.

I'll give you the web-links below, but try to follow me here for a minute.

I was browsing around the EthicsPoint website and found a page about how any federal agency can simply "buy" their services for operating a "whistleblower hotline" (e.g., via a website) just as if they were buying office furniture or copy-paper (i.e., without a bidding process).

[BTW: That means that any federal agency can allow whistleblowing tomorrow without an Act of Congress (i.e., trying to improve the failed Whistleblower Protection Act).]

BUT then I noticed, in the left-hand column, a link to the "Ethics & Compliance Officers (ECOA) National Conference" next week in Orlando, FL, which lead to me to their conference agenda, with sessions like this:

"Dangerous Silence: What Employees Won't Tell You, Why, and
What You Can Do about It"

"Optimizing Corporate Ethics and Compliance
Programs in the Federal Government"

So it appears that the people attending this conference (i.e., ethics and compliance officers) are the very people most qualified to judge whether a candidate actually "gets it", or if he is just spouting empty rhetoric.

Now I wouldn't expect the candidates to rearrange their schedules to attend the ECOA conference, and it still might be too much to even arrange a teleconference. So I'm thinking that maybe the ECOA could ask both campaigns to send a short (5-minute max.) video of each ticket's candidate(s) responding this simple, straightforward question, so that the ECOA conference attendees can then "confer" about it.

"Will you make it safe for government workers to point out
waste, fraud or abuse, without the fear of losing their jobs?"

In the interest of fairness, the videos could be "embargoed" until shown to the ECOA conferees, so that no candidate could tailor their his/her remarks based on the others'. And, after the viewing, the videos could be posted on YouTube for everyone else to see, and the media could interview conferees to get their assessment of the candidate's statements, while drawing a LOT of publicity to the ECOA mission and its members.

So what do you think? Got an idea of your own?

Please share your thoughts here, or contact me directly and, in the meantime, I'll go see if ECOA (or some other similar group) is interested in picking up on this.

--- SB

1. Any federal agency can buy a "whistleblower hotline/website" right now:

2. ECOA National Conference agenda (and link to ECOA homepage):

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My first post: Why this blog?

[Even though I've been online for 20 years, this is my first blog. Any suggestions for tweaking the site are very welcome.]

As I write this, there are only about 7 weeks left in the U.S. presidential campaign, and it appears that both McCain and Obama are going to be falling all over themselves trying to convince voters that they are the better candidate for "change" and "reform".

As a former federal employee, I was heavily involved in the 1990's in making the U.S. government "work better and cost less" under Vice-President Al Gore's National Performance (a.k.a. "reinventing government"), so this current opportunity to get the future President (whoever that may be) to talk, in more detail, about how he plans to change the "culture of Washington" is, for people like me, a very exciting time.

And, if YOU feel the same way, then you probably have noticed the increase in "good government" buzzwords coming out of recent speeches from the candidates. Buzzwords like these:

"transparency" -- "accountability" -- "reform" -- "culture change" -- and even "whistleblower" (to describe Palin)

By creating this blog, I hope we can all share any relevant news or information that may provide some insight to what these "changers" and "mavericks" have in mind.

And, because I have personal experience as a former federal auditor about "blowing the whistle" on government waste, I am especially interested in how they plan to make it safe for government workers to point out government waste without fearing for their jobs.

So here it is, the simple question that the "candidates-for-change" need to answer (and that I hope this blog will prompt):
"Will you make it safe for government workers to point out waste, fraud or abuse, without the fear of losing their jobs?"

That is the fundamental question. Any candidate that can answer that question is one that also knows how to create "transparency and accountability".
Let's all find out (before the election).