Whistleblower Law Blog
DCAA Whistleblower Promoted After Enduring Years of Retaliation
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced its conclusion last week that the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) violated the Whistleblower Protection Act when it retaliated against Diem-Thi Le for blowing the whistle on fraudulent DCAA practices.
Ms. Le worked for the DCAA as a Senior Auditor for 17 years. In September 2005 Le was performing a routine audit when, according to her statement before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, she found “that the accounting system was inadequate in part and, as a result, the contractor was misallocating and mischarging costs to the Government.” Le reported this discrepancy to her supervisor; however, the DCAA ignored her findings and altered them in favor of the contractor. Le contended that supervisors approved findings of compliance not supported by audit work papers or simply changed or deleted findings of noncompliance, because DCAA operated on a metrics-oriented culture, focusing on the quantity of audits performed rather than the quality of the audits.
On November 13, 2005, Ms. Le filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (OIG) alleging that DCAA violated the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS). According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Le subsequently made the same allegations to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GOA) and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). However, due to the number of complaints OIG was processing, Le’s complaint was erroneously referred back to DCAA managers.
The OSC executive summary states:
Once DCAA supervisors came to believe that Le made the disclosures about [DCAA’s Santa Ana Branch Office’s] auditing practices, they took a series of retaliatory actions against her. They denied her a cash award for the performance year ending June 30, 2006, although she had received an outstanding performance rating. Then, they lowered Le’s performance ratings in 2007 and 2008 to fully successful, although she had received outstanding performance ratings in each of the four preceding years. They also failed to give Le performance awards in 2007 and 2008.
The OSC conducted a two year investigation and determined that DCAA “engaged in a pattern and practice of retaliation against Ms. Le for her disclosures.” The OSC determined that DCAA must take full corrective action, which includes changing Le’s performance ratings to the highest level of achievement, awarding her retroactive performance awards, and lifting a gag order that had been imposed on her. DCAA also offered Le a promotion and the officials that retaliated against Le either reassigned or were disciplined.