Senators Vince Sheheen (D-Kershaw) and Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) have introduced a bill that would strengthen current “whistleblower” laws for state employees, in an effort to prevent corruption and provide an incentive for those to tell what they know.
Sheheen says the motivation comes after what he calls a continuing pattern of leadership abuse in South Carolina’s state agencies.
You know we had scandal, of course, with the governor’s office (and) just a couple of years ago with the state treasurer’s office. We’ve also seen scandal with just some rank and file employees, like the Department of Social Services where millions of dollars were stolen, to a lesser extent the Department of Motor Vehicles. So we want to hold the leaders accountable and employees of South Carolina accountable. One way to do that is to provide protection for employees who blow the whistle.
Sheheen says the bill that would offer job protection for people who report lawbreakers in addition to providing some financial incentives.
Two things. One, it gives employees a financial incentive to come forward so, if they’re risking something they at least know that they can get a reward. It would give ten percent of any savings we have because of fraud being rooted out. It would give that to the reporting employee. And secondly, it really provides them more protection from being fired. It gives them a much greater length of time that they can report so they’re not caught in any loopholes. So we provide those protections and incentives and I think that’s a powerful one, two punch.
Senator Jake Knotts of Lexington the bill would offer job protection for people who report lawbreakers.
It has been a problem with state government for a long time, and the employees that I’ve talked to throughout the state says, “listen, we would report stuff going on, but we would lose our job, and we have a family to feed and we don’t want to go through the hassle. And we report it and we don’t want to use our names, we don’t want to do this, we don’t want to do that” in fear of retaliation.
Knotts feels this bill will encourage those who know something but are afraid to report fraud in the workplace.
This not only gives law enforcement a set of eyes that they wouldn’t normally have in the workplace. It gives them a set of ears also, and it give the employee a way to report stuff that they know is going on that they don’t like, but they have to tolerate in order to keep a job.
Knotts hopes this will also discourage those who may be thinking about committing fraud in the workplace. “It closes that door of opportunity because it lets those people know somebody might be looking.”
Knotts feels it is important for the issue to be bipartisan because “state employees are both Democrats and Republicans.”
We wanted to knock all the barriers out so state employees can do the best job they can do and have the best workplace environment that they can possibly have without the fear of being fired or trying to stop something that they know is wrong.
Sheheen believes they will get the two-thirds vote needed for it to pass this session. The two-thirds vote is required on this measure since the bill did not make the May 1 crossover deadline.