The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) of the USA with about 4,559 employees allegedly wasted a large sum of taxdollars. It is responsible for combating the bootlegging of alcohol and the smuggling of alcohol, tobacco and weapons. The ATF claims to have 2,597 Special Agents, highly trained elite law enforcement officers.
“Joe” is a self-chosen pseudonym of the whistleblower in the CBS News interview. When “Joe” started at the ATF in 2016 as an information specialist in the human resources department, he noticed irregularities early on. Employees in administrative roles were receiving LEAP even though they were not entitled to it. Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) is a type of premium payment equal to 25 per cent of base salary that ATF special agents are entitled to for unscheduled service.
Initially, Joe requested the premium payment, assuming he was entitled. When he was denied payment, he did some research. He found out that employees who were not entitled to the premium payment received payments over a longer period of time. He approached his supervisors. They were “upset” by his statements. As a result, his performance rating dropped from “fully successful” to “minimally successful.” He was then dismissed for “unacceptable performance”.
An independent Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigator stated that the likelihood of wrongdoing by the ATF was very high. According to initial investigations, at least 94 ATF employees are alleged to have improperly received bonus payments. If these practices were spread across the entire U.S. government, this would be a tax loss amounting to millions of dollars. Four other agencies are said to be involved, but declined to comment due to ongoing investigation.
One could assume that Joe acted out of revenge. At the end of the interview with CBS News, “Joe” was asked why he reported the incident. His answer: “Because it was wrong.” A better question would be why these practices were not reported earlier. What matters is not the motivation of a whistleblower, but the facts of the case. The focus should always be on exposing the violations. Regularly and wrongly, the focus is on the whistleblower who must justify his or her report. According to the EU Directive on the protection of whistleblowers, motivation is negligible as long as the facts constitute a violation.
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