The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Assistant Secretary for Administration, Office of Human Resources (OHR) oversees the coordination and implementation of HHS’s 2303(c) Certification Program (excluding the Office of Inspector General). 5 U.S.C. § 2302(c) requires agency heads, in consultation with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), to ensure that employees are informed of their rights and remedies under the prohibited personnel practices and whistleblower protection provisions of Title 5. In 2002, OSC established the 2302 Certification Program to provide agencies with a process for meeting this requirement.
HHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) established the whistleblower protection ombudsman (WPO) as required by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. The WPO was changed to the whistleblower protection coordinator (WPC) in accordance with Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act of 2018 to better reflect the roles and responsibilities of the position.
WPC’s comprehensive webpage includes rights and remedies available to whistleblowers; responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs); links to the OIG Hotline, Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC); procedures for filing a complaint of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ programs; and more
HHS first obtained 2303(c) certification from OSC in 2015 and will continue to renew and satisfy all certification requirements every three years. HHS’s certification establishes that all employees are informed of their rights and remedies under whistleblowing and PPP provisions.
The plan for maintaining certification for HHS includes coordination with the servicing human resources offices. This team approach is required considering the number and locations of HHS employees throughout the world.
The points of contact/liaisons from each Operating and Staff Division (OpDiv/StaffDiv) coordinate requirements for OpDiv/StaffDiv compliance and submit reports to OHR accordingly.
In addition to HHS’s plans, OIG has obtained its own certification from OSC. In June 2013, the OIG notified HHS employees of the WPC (formerly WPO) via an email blast. That email included a link to the WPC webpage and the contact information for the WPC. The OIG also requested that the HHS ethics counselors forward the email to all Special Government Employees (SGEs) for which they are responsible.
Executive Order and Statutory Provisions from 2018
These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling.
- Executive Order 13526 - Classified National Security Information;
- Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress);
- Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code, as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
- Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (governing disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse or public health or safety threats);
- Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.) (governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents);
- The statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952, of title 18, United States Code; and
- Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b))
Information for HHS Employees
Information is also maintained on HHS’s intranet page under the “2302(c) Certification Program” section and includes resources, contact information, and links to the OSC and other relevant websites.
The Secretary issues an annual email to all HHS employees informing them of their rights and remedies under the prohibited personnel practices and whistleblower protection provisions of title 5. The email includes links to information required for distribution under the 2302(c) Certification Program.
Training for Managers and Supervisors
Managers and supervisors are required to complete training on the PPPs and whistleblower disclosures every three years and annual supervisory training on how to respond to complaints alleging a violation of whistleblower protections. HHS combined this mandatory training and requires that managers and supervisors who oversee title 5 employees complete the training annually.
OHR issues a notification to the OpDiv’s/StaffDiv’s human resources directors (HRDs) reminding them of this training requirement. The HRDs coordinate with their respective training administrators to ensure all covered managers and supervisors complete the training by the due date.