As trust in OSC rises, agency adjusts strategic plan for the future

The Office of Special Counsel is taking a step forward now that the agency says it’s gained more trust and confidence from the federal workforce.

OSC has a new five-year strategic plan to reflect its new stage, said Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner.

“We now place greater focus on using our limited resources in innovative, targeted and strategic ways to enhance effective enforcement and increase communication with stakeholders,” Lerner wrote in the plan.

2015 was another record breaking year for the agency. It received 6,140 new matters in fiscal 2015, well above 2014’s total of 5,236 cases. The agency’s workload has risen 58 percent in all areas since 2010, OSC said.

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For OSC, the rise in cases demonstrates that not only do more federal employees feel comfortable coming forward to blow the whistle but they also trust the Office of Special Counsel to listen and potentially deliver a favorable result.

“The success stories and statistics paint a clear picture: the positive outcomes and impact that OSC has obtained far surpass the agency’s performance in past periods,” the agency said.

To that end, OSC developed three main strategic goals, along with performance metrics to measure its progress, to drive the agency’s mission for the next five years.

  1. Protect and promote the integrity and fairness of the federal workplace
  2. Ensure government accountability
  3. Achieve organizational excellence

A key component of OSC’s new strategy is its plan to build a new combined form for reporting government wrongdoing, whistleblower retaliation, prohibited personnel practices and Hatch Act violations. The form would give federal employees a common place to file complaints electronically.

“The form is designed to be confidential, secure and convenient for the user,” the strategic plan said. “It can be downloaded and completely privately. It may be submitted electronically and immediately routed and processed. And the user need not establish an account. OSC will work vigorously to review and assess the whistleblower reporting experience to ensure that, by providing a safe channel for whistleblowers and their disclosures, OSC can better ensure government accountability.”

OSC said the goal is to have the new electronic complaint form ready by fiscal 2017.

Revamping its online public file of whistleblower disclosures on the OSC website is another goal.

Better communication and educational outreach is also part of OSC’s strategy. The agency said it wants to expand Hatch Act and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) training and certification programs to more organizations, and OSC said it plans to step up its digital media program to reach more.

In addition, the agency expects to build on the success it gained in the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and develop a new human capital management plan next fiscal year that prioritizes engagement.

Because OSC expects its workload to increase again this year with more whistleblower cases and Hatch Act complaints during the 2016 election season, the agency predicts that its budget constraints won’t go away.

It would like to find new ways to streamline the processes it uses to handle cases, but uncertain budget conditions and limited resources have been an issue. OSC said it hopes to find, procure and deploy a commercial off-the-shelf IT solution, but it gave no timeline for the project.

“OSC has had limited ability to invest in, but increased need for, long term improvements in technology,” it wrote. “OSC will be called upon to ensure that the technological environment in which it conducts its work is modern and secure. By proactively assessing the information security needs and the technological requirements of employees and stakeholders, OSC plans to improve efficiency, security and the customer experience.”

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