This week’s “Whistleblower Spotlight” features Ivan Irizarry, the lead scientist at the Census Bureau’s Demographic Statistical Methods Division. He is the whistleblower who recently outed himself and his concerns over what he sees as the government’s failure to take any action to address his reports of potential fraud at the Bureau. In an interview reported in the New York Post on Tuesday, Irizarry explained the essence of his charges and ever-mounting frustration.
In 2010, Irizarry discovered what he believed to be fraud in the Bureau’s granting of a $2 million annual contract to the University of Maryland. He reported it all the way up the line and well beyond — to his immediate superiors; the Census’ comptroller, CFO and Bureau Chief; the Commerce Department’s Inspector General; the Office of Special Counsel, his senator, Ben Cardin (D-Md.); the FBI; and the White House. Nothing happened. That is, except for his own mistreatment for bringing his concerns forward. Staff was removed from his command, and he suddenly got a bad performance review and was suspended.
Apparently Irizarry is one of many whistleblowers from the Census Bureau who have reported fraud at the agency. And it goes well beyond potential problems with the University of Maryland. It goes to the widespread falsification of economic data and questionable financial dealings on numerous agency contracts and expenses. At this point, it appears very little, if anything, is being done to get to the bottom of this alleged misbehavior, though there are rumblings Congress is beginning to take some notice.
So why has Irizarry alone taken the bold step to go public with his dogged pursuit at the risk of even more retaliation? To him, and so many whistleblowers like him, the answer is obvious:
The only way we can effect change is that, little by little, individuals like me be brave enough to do something. Everyone always complains about the system. If you think something is wrong or illegal, you need to tell someone. And if they don’t listen, you tell someone else. And if nobody is listening, you stand in the town square and you tell everyone.
Yet another shining example of what really makes a whistleblower tick.
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