Ludlam statement House Congressional hearing May 11 2011
From Peace Corps Wiki
Statement of Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (Nepal, Kenya, Senegal) Regarding Peace Corps Reform Submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee May 11, 2011
Introduction and Overview
When we heard how Kate Puzey, a Volunteer whistle blower, was murdered by Peace Corps staff in Benin, we grieved but were not surprised. When we heard how Jess Smochek was treated by the Peace Corps after she was raped in Bangladesh, we were distressed but not surprised. Our statement will explain why these stories are rooted in Peace Corps culture, policies and practices and are not isolated incidents.
We loved serving as Volunteers in the 1960s and again from 2005 to '07. Over more than 40 years we have been proud of our service as Volunteers. In important ways, Peace Corps has shaped our lives. We are still involved with friends in Kenya, Nepal, and Senegal, the countries where we served. We feel a bond with other Volunteers. We think and act differently in the world as a result of our Peace Corps experiences. And the two of us met at a Peace Corps function. We deeply believe in the Peace Corps mission. It has been a force for good in the world.
During our second term of service, however, we became dismayed as we gradually realized the extent of mismanagement in the agency. Few Volunteers from the early decades have served again. If they did, most would share our alarm. During and after our recent service, we documented that the mismanagement is pervasive and deeply entrenched in Peace Corps culture. Because we still have faith in the Peace Corps ideals, we cannot keep quiet about its manifest failures. The bottom line is that over the decades, the Peace Corps has substantially declined. It falls far short of its idealistic goals and may be the worst managed agency of the Federal government.
This is a bipartisan loss and tragedy. The need for fundamental reforms has grown under Democratic as well as Republican administrations. The Peace Corps' refusal to listen to and protect Volunteers is bipartisan. Its failure to organize effectively as an agent of grassroots development is bipartisan. Its tendency to deny that there are any problems is bipartisan. And certainly, the failure of Congress to oversee the agency has been bipartisan. Bipartisan action to enact reform legislation is long overdue.
Why is the need for reform not well known? The Peace Corps has been tenacious in suppressing bad publicity. As we will explain, it conceals information about the many Volunteers who quit early and the serious problems revealed in its Volunteer survey results. During the recent campaign to expand the number of Volunteers in the field, the Peace Corps and National Peace Corps Association quashed pending reform legislation and discussion of reforms. Moreover, the Volunteers have little incentive to speak up for change. Instead, many quit early in frustration, often blaming themselves for the problems they experienced. When younger Volunteers return home, they are soon too preoccupied with readjusting to get involved with reform. Few Volunteers know how to organize to seek reform, and the Peace Corps gives them no effective outlets in policy-making circles. In this information vacuum, the media usually produce puff pieces when they cover Peace Corps. With no one holding the agency accountable, it’s no wonder that it has atrophied.
What are the underlying problems? Today’s Peace Corps is a hierarchy with Volunteers at the bottom. It’s highly bureaucratic and risk-averse. While many of the staff do excellent work under trying conditions, many others condescend to Volunteers, devalue what they offer, and focus on regulating rather than empowering them. Although Volunteers are in the best position to assess the agency's performance, their input is largely ignored. Typically, bureaucratic concerns trump the agency’s idealistic mission.
The Volunteers who do speak out about mismanagement are often shunned or sent home. In most countries Volunteers say that to survive the bureaucracy they must “fly under the radar” and stay clear of management. When Volunteers succeed, they often say that it’s in spite of, not because of the bureaucracy. The root cause of this labor-management divide is that the Peace Corps lacks sufficient respect for the Volunteers to establish effective listening mechanisms.
It follows that our lead reform proposal is to mandate that the Peace Corps establish listening mechanisms to encourage Volunteers to offer constructive input regarding staff performance and program effectiveness – on a confidential basis. This will empower Volunteers to reform the Peace Corps from the inside. In addition, we propose to empower applicants by publicizing metrics of the agency’s performance so that they can determine which Peace Corps programs are well managed. This will pressure the agency to reform from the outside. Finally, we propose to utilize the ultimate incentive – vigorous and healthy market competition between the Peace Corps and the newly authorized Volunteers for Prosperity program. With this combination of systems, incentives and pressure, we have hope that the Peace Corps will begin to live up to its iconic reputation.
Listening Mechanisms Guaranteeing Confidentiality and Protection Against Retaliation
Enactment of mandates for the Peace Corps to establish listening mechanisms is our first major recommendation. If the Volunteers are empowered to speak out on a confidential basis without fear of retaliation, the Peace Corps will face effective internal pressure to reform.
The urgent need for this reform was intensified by the murder of Peace Corps Volunteer and whistle blower Kate Puzey in Benin by a Peace Corps staff member who she had reported was raping students at her school. Kate begged that her identity as a whistle blower be held in confidence. The Peace Corps staff blew her cover and failed to warn her that she was in jeopardy. As a foreseeable consequence, the accused staffer murdered Kate.
It appears that the Peace Corps did not refer the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether the Country Director should be indicted for violating Kate’s civil rights.
Two years before her murder in 2007, Senators Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy introduced legislation mandating that the Peace Corps guarantee confidentiality for Volunteer whistle blowers and protect them against retaliation. In July 2007 while serving as Volunteers in West Africa, we flew to Washington to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of the Dodd/Kennedy bill protections. The Peace Corps opposed that legislation. It disparaged the idea that there was anything broken in the Peace Corps. The National Peace Corps Association also opposed the legislation. Then in March 2009 Kate was murdered.
Would the Dodd/Kennedy bill protections have saved her life? It's a haunting question. We can’t answer a hypothetical, but it appears that the actions and policies of Peace Corps Headquarters were just as culpable as the actions and policies in Benin. The agency’s reluctance to listen to and respect Volunteer whistle blowers such as Kate is deeply entrenched in Peace Corps culture. The problems leading to her death are part of Peace Corps culture and policies. This cannot be dismissed as an isolated or unforeseeable event.
We failed Kate because we were not tough and persuasive enough to defeat the opponents of the Dodd/Kennedy bill reforms. We feel troubled and indirectly responsible for her death.
In March 2010, a year after Kate was murdered, we tried again to enact protections for Volunteer whistle blowers, raising them as amendments to the 2009 Dodd Peace Corps Reauthorization legislation. Again, the agency and NPCA opposed and killed them.
In June 2010 after Senator Dodd had formally requested that the Peace Corps “assess” mechanisms to solicit Volunteers' views on a confidential basis, the Peace Corps failed to do so.
On January 14, 2011, the same day that the 20/20 expose was broadcast, the Peace Corps promulgated its first rules to protect Volunteer whistle blowers. The rules are narrow, confusing, and cumbersome. They fall far short of the listening mechanisms and protections in the 2007 Dodd/Kennedy bill. Attached is our analysis highlighting 23 major problems with these rules.
The bottom line is that the Peace Corps has published poorly crafted rules 33 years after the rest of the government came under the Federal Whistle Blower Act of 1978. This is an unconscionable delay and the work is shoddy.
The timing of the new Peace Corps rules suggests that they are designed to discourage the Congress from enacting reform legislation. But with the issuance of these rules, the Peace Corps has acknowledged that Volunteer whistle blowers deserve protection. This step strengthens arguments for mandating that these protections become a permanent part of Peace Corps culture.
The Peace Corps’ hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers explains why the circumstances of Kate Puzey’s death do not surprise us.
It is time now – finally – to enact the Dodd/Kennedy proposals to establish mechanisms whereby Volunteer whistle blowers can speak out on a confidential basis and be protected from retaliation. We should ignore Peace Corps staff objections that are based on fears of what the Volunteers will say about their performance. This proposal won’t bring Kate back but it will protect future Volunteers.
The Dodd/Kennedy listening mechanisms would ensure that Volunteers are heard when they review staff performance, Peace Corps policies, training, site preparation, and development programs. The Volunteers know best which staff members are competent and which programs are working. The Peace Corps must reverse course and heed their comments. But they won't speak out if the agency doesn’t guarantee them confidentiality and protection against retaliation. If Volunteers are empowered to speak out, the Peace Corps can begin a process for continuous renewal.
Organizations that respect their employees set up these listening mechanisms. They’re called 360 degree reviews. Such organizations do not fear what employees will report about management. Consumers in many areas have rating mechanisms.Examples are RateMyTeacher.com, Angie’s list, and Amazon. Now it’s time for the Volunteers to be given the means to rate their managers.
Unless Congress requires it to do so, the Peace Corps will not establish effective mechanisms to listen to Volunteers and protect whistle blowers.
Professional and Sensitive Policies for Rape and Sexual Assaults
Implementation of a new and professional strategy to prevent and manage rape and sexual assaults is our second major recommendation to revitalize the Peace Corps. The listening mechanisms and protections for whistle blowers are essential in this area too. They will ensure that the Peace Corps listens to Volunteer views regarding its policies and practices on preventing and responding to sexual assaults and rapes.
The Peace Corps has failed to develop sensitive, professional policies and practices to prevent rapes and sexual assaults and to follow modern procedures in caring for the victims. This delay is also unconscionable. This is consistent with its overriding failure to listen to and respect the Volunteers. This is why the stories of Peace Corps rape and assault victims do not surprise us.
Incidents of rape and sexual assault in the general population are substantially underreported because women fear that they will be blamed or demeaned. Peace Corps victims are especially reluctant to report these crimes because they have seen that the staff blames and demeans victims and tries to sever connections with them as soon as possible. The Peace Corps should take extensive additional steps to ensure that sexual assaults and rapes are reported, that Volunteer safety is the agency’s highest priority and that the incidents are managed to the highest standards of professional care. Safe practices include better security for Volunteer living quarters. The Peace Corps Inspector General has found that “40% of the Volunteers’ houses did not meet the [Peace Corps] posts’ own criteria for safe housing…”
Emphasis on Quality, not Quantity, and Honest Metrics of Agency Performance
Ending the Peace Corps’ expansion campaign and mandating that the agency become more transparent with OMB, the Congress, and the applicants is our third major recommendation to revitalize the Peace Corps. Again, the Peace Corps must listen to the Volunteers, who support reform over expansion.
Unfortunately, the agency’s high priority over the decades has been to increase the number of Volunteers in the field. This effort has been led recently by the More Peace Corps campaign sponsored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Push for Peace Corps campaign. This is a classic example of favoring quantity over quality. Given the pervasive mismanagement, additional Volunteers is the last thing this troubled agency needs. The agency’s own survey of Volunteers found that they supported reform over expansion by a 5 to 2 margin. But, once again, their point of view was ignored.
The Peace Corps has recently added 1,000 Volunteers worldwide. These additional Volunteers were generally added to the workload of existing staff, many of whom have been stretched to the breaking point. The Peace Corps Inspector General (IG) has found that the agency has no definition of “quality” so it cannot even attempt to measure the inevitable tradeoffs between quantity and quality. The IG reported that Peace Corps staff had expressed concerns about a decline in Volunteer “quality and suitability for service…as (staff) face increasing pressure to meet agency growth targets.” It found that staff were being “encouraged to request lower-skilled trainees… And now, with the government’s move toward budget austerity, all of the recent expansion must be unwound – a management nightmare. The expansion appears to have been a disastrous miscalculation. It has, however, succeeded in helping to kill reform legislation and silence any mention of the agency’s problems.
We believe that only by ending the expansion campaign will the Peace Corps be able to focus intently on reform. We believe this because honesty about the Peace Corps has been in short supply during the expansion campaign. This campaign rested partly on a misleading claim that there are 3 applicants for every Volunteer training slot. As recently as Fiscal 2008, 97% of the applicants who survived the medical selection process were invited to training. In Fiscal 2007 it was 96%. So in those years medical fitness was the basic criterion for service. In other words, nearly everyone who is considered medically fit gets to enter training to become a Volunteer. The scarcity of jobs probably contributed to a recent surge in applicants who are economic refugees, but they are not necessarily well motivated and qualified to serve as Volunteers. Peace Corps staff may complain about the Volunteers' motivation and sense of responsibility, but the agency itself has chosen not to be selective and to expand despite the absence of a surplus of well qualified applicants.
The expansion campaign has been premised on a second misleading claim that “20 countries” are shovel-ready for new or renewed Peace Corps programs. Apparently no such list exists. The Peace Corps could not find one in response to our FOIA request. The Volunteers in at least a dozen countries say their programs should be shut down, but again the Peace Corps doesn’t heed their point of view.
In addition, the Peace Corps hides the fact that 30-35% of Volunteers worldwide are talking with their feet and quitting early. In some countries and some programs the early quit rate is 40%, 60%, or up to 87%. Over the 2005-08 fiscal years, 35 different countries had an early-quit rate of 40% or more. Fifteen of these countries have had early-quit rates greater than 40% in multiple years. During this reporting period, there were only six countries that didnt experience an early-quit rate of 30% or more and not a single country that maintained an early quit rate of less than 20%. Since 2005 the Peace Corps has been manipulating statistics so it can conceal this embarrassing information from OMB, the Congress, the media, and the applicants. Of course, the applicants have a vital interest in knowing if they’ve been invited to a country with a high or low early quit rate. Why would any applicant accept an invitation to serve in a country with an early quit rate of more than 20%? High early quit rates demoralize those who stay to complete their service. They destroy continuity between Volunteers. They confuse and disappoint the communities where the Volunteers serve. One can make a strong case that the agency is squandering a percentage of its budget roughly equal to the early quit rate. The agency’s misrepresentation about this rate means that vital information is not used to target improvements in programs with the highest quit rate and poorest management. The Peace Corps dares not admit the truth about the early quit rates, because it would reveal that to expand, it must first fill these vacated slots – a costly and continuous treadmill.
The agency also hides the fact that its own surveys of Volunteers document pervasive malaise and mismanagement. We obtained a copy of the country-by-country results for the 2008 survey from a staff whistle blower. We created an excel spread sheet that ranks the countries from top to bottom on each survey question. The same countries land at the top or bottom on question after question. These results revealed that about 15 countries were well managed. The Volunteers give marginal or low ratings to many Country Directors and other staff and the programs to which they were assigned. The Country Director in Benin when Kate was murdered ranked in the bottom 10 worldwide. The survey data dovetails with the early quit rate data: The same countries rank low or high. The agency seems to have no system to use the surveys to overhaul the worst-managed programs.
The Peace Corps has refused to release the country-by-country results for the 2009 and 2010 in response to our FOIA requests. It denied us access to this information because the Peace Corps is loath to divulge the country-by-country and program-by-program results to applicants as they might refuse an invitation to serve in a low-ranked country. Also, were this information to become public, it would be toxic to the expansion campaign. These are not valid reasons for refusing to comply with FOIA or President Obama’s transparency initiative. We believe we have been successful in recruiting a top law firm to sue the Peace Corps to compel it to divulge the country-by-country results under FOIA.
We recommend that the Congress compel the Peace Corps to reveal the country-by-country and program-by-program early-quit rates and survey results to OMB, the Congress, the public and the applicants. If the applicants are empowered to be selective in accepting an invitation to serve, the Peace Corps will face effective external pressure to reform. If the Peace Corps finds it difficult to persuade applicants to serve in the worst managed programs in countries with the highest early quit rates and the worst survey responses, it would feel pressure to intervene to fundamentally overhaul or shutter these programs. A powerful incentive for reform.
More Emphasis on First Goal
Our fourth major recommendation is for the Congress to mandate that the Peace Corps take the First Goal much more seriously as an essential element of the Peace Corps mission. Again, the key pressure will come from listening to Volunteers about the performance of the managers and the effectiveness of the programs in which they work.
Regarding its First Goal of sustainable grassroots development, the Peace Corps fails to acknowledge that it has fallen far short. For over 50 years, it has had no effective system to document the Volunteer projects that worked and those that did not. It has minimal systems to document Volunteers' work on a site-by-site basis or to develop strategic plans for each site. When the Volunteers develop an effective project, the Peace Corps has no system for taking those plans to scale. The Peace Corps makes essentially no use of Best Practice Guides. It could have developed thousands by now based on the experiences of 200,000 returned Volunteers. That it failed to do is an irretrievable waste and loss. In addition, the Peace Corps has not updated its philosophy or strategy for development and does not participate in the international debates about the most effective ways to spur development.
The Peace Corps does not provide seed capital for Volunteer projects. Yet such seed capital is sorely needed to launch demonstrations. Host country nationals are not persuaded by ideas and talk; they learn when they can see something demonstrated. The lack of seed capital is crippling and demoralizing. And the Peace Corps has set up bureaucratic rules that keep Volunteers from fundraising to support their projects. The Dodd/Kennedy bill allocates seed capital to Volunteers and permits more Volunteer fundraising.
As a result of these First Goal failures, new Volunteers usually start from scratch with little guidance on projects and strategies that they might seek to implement. Predictably, many young Volunteers get frustrated and quit – literally or figuratively. Of course, some individual Volunteers achieve substantial successes, but they often say that this is in spite of, not because of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps' failures as a grassroots development agency not only hurt the Volunteers; they also deprive the host countries of the kind of assistance they desperately need and deserve.
The Peace Corps is more successful at its Second Goal – cultural exchange. Volunteers, who often speak the local language and live at the grassroots level, are wonderful cultural ambassadors for the United States. But the cost of some $50,000 per Volunteer per year is exceedingly expensive.
Upgrade Inadequate Administrative Infrastructure
Our sixth recommendation is that the Congress mandate that the Peace Corps upgrade its inadequate administrative infrastructure.
In its zeal to expand, the Peace Corps is not taking steps to reform its antiquated administrative infrastructure. The Peace Corps has more political appointees per capita than any other federal agency. For decades it has been a dumping ground for political appointees. We recommend cutting the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps by two-thirds. The Country Directors make or break the programs they lead. Yet the selection of country directors is not organized to eliminate favoritism based on political connections. The Peace Corps Inspector General is not appointed by the President so he or she is not independent of the political appointees. As a result, the lead in investigating crimes against Volunteers was taken away from the Peace Corps IG, a move designed to minimize the bad publicity that was arising from the IG’s investigations of these crimes and prosecutions of the perpetrators. The five-year limit on the tenure of Peace Corps staff means that no one stays very long, so the agency has little institutional memory. Short-term civil service staff cannot stand up to the political appointees. Staff turnover is constant and chaotic. Because of the five-year rule, agency staff do not have civil service rights. They are considered “temporary” employees who lack key rights of other federal employees. They can be fired arbitrarily at the whim of a political appointee. They need to be given whistle blower rights and protections. This is a way to respect the Peace Corps staff.
The Peace Corps prides itself on not having “rules” but this means that when it publishes guidance that has the effect of rules it does not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act and publish proposals for public comment. The Peace Corps is not transparent with applicants about the early-quit rate and survey responses in the country in which they are invited to serve. We have posted advice to applicants on PeaceCorpsWiki.org, the website for in-depth analysis of Peace Corps policies and performance, suggesting what they should know before deciding whether to accept an invitation to serve. Also, after “nominating” an applicant to a specific program and country, the Peace Corps actually “invites” the applicant to serve in a different country and program about 40% of the time; applicants are allowed only 10 days to decide whether to “take it or leave it.” These switches, done for the convenience of the Peace Corps, are unfair to the applicants. Such administrative shortcomings prevent the Peace Corps from listening to and respecting the Volunteers and civil service staff.
Market Competition to Spur Peace Corps Reform
Our final recommendation is for the Congress to put the Peace Corps into vigorous and healthy competition with the Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP) program. Even if Volunteers are empowered to speak out and applicants are empowered to be selective, we believe that only through intense market competition will the Peace Corps become committed to reform.
It is time to ask whether the Peace Corps model – an expansive, risk-averse, and rigid bureaucracy – is workable at current funding levels. The scandal exposed by 20/20 and the Federal Budget crisis act in synergy to raisethe risk that Congress will simply slash the Peace Corps budget, generating a net reduction in placements. However, if we act boldly, we can address the scandals and the budget crisis both at once and actually increase the number of these placements five to six-fold.
Had Peace Corps been less of a national icon, it might have evolved into a decentralized program that placed Volunteers with NGOs. This is how VISTA evolved into AmeriCorps in 1993. VISTA still exists, but it is dwarfed by AmeriCorps, which has far more volunteers. Compared to VISTA, AmeriCorps has minimal bureaucracy and cost because it connects volunteers with NGOs who handle selection, training, placement, and support. As a result, nearly 600,000 AmeriCorps volunteers have done domestic service in only 18 years since the program was established.
Since the Peace Corps was founded, NGOs have multiplied into the thousands, many led by host country nationals. The Peace Corps has failed to ask how this might fundamentally alter the Peace Corps model of service.
The Congress is well aware of the AmeriCorps model and has already enacted the VfP program for international service modeled on the domestic program. VfP was authorized as part of the Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009, although it has been operating since 2003. VfP connects American volunteers with international NGOs at a fraction of the cost per Volunteer of the Peace Corps. VfP applicants can choose among hundreds of NGOs, including those operating in countries that have no Peace Corps program and those with work assignments not offered by the Peace Corps. Because VfP is decentralized, it minimizes the participants' exposure to terrorist attack.
We propose that over a period of 3 to 4 years, half of the Peace Corps budget be allocated to VfP. This would mean an allocation of about $200 million to the Peace Corps and the same to VfP. With its half, the Peace Corps could field 4,000 Volunteers. With its half, VfP could field up to 40,000 volunteers. Thus, by better utilizing the Peace Corps’ current budget, we could see a five to six fold increase in the total number of international voluntary placements.
The Peace Corps might argue that each of its Volunteer is worth five to ten times more than a VfP volunteer. Given the current mismanagement, however, it cannot credibly substantiate such a claim.
Of course, some NGOs, too, are poorly managed, but applicants can find out which ones are run well and apply to them. Indeed, with VfP we could set up a market competition among the NGOs to enable VfP applicants to make informed choices among potential positions; this would give the NGOs an incentive to improve their management of volunteers. No such market mechanisms operate for the Peace Corps. With fewer slots to fill, the Peace Corps would have a surplus of applicants and could select those with a demonstrated commitment to grassroots development and cross-cultural immersion and could provide them with substantially better training and technical support. This should reduce the costly early-quit rate.
Even if the Peace Corps were not mismanaged, this new divvy is a smart strategy given the Federal budget realities. We must make more cost-effective use of our resources as they grow scarce.
One key issue regarding VfP is whether the Peace Corps would make a bid to manage it. The Corporation for National Service manages both VISTA and AmeriCorps.
Our proposal is not to terminate the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps trains Volunteers in local languages, trains them to work at the grassroots level, and often sends them to villages where NGOs are less active or nonexistent. However, the proposal would end the Peace Corps monopoly on government-sponsored international voluntary service. The Peace Corps would continue as one of 2 major options for international voluntary service through the U.S. government. Achieving a balance between the Peace Corps and VfP would provide healthy market competition for the Peace Corps and spur it to embrace reform.
If over time the Peace Corps does not reform itself, then VfP would deserve greater and greater claims on the budget for international voluntary placements. The competition would thus determine whether the Peace Corps survives.
We know that our proposed divvy between the Peace Corps and VfP will be controversial. VISTA alumni vigorously opposed the establishment of AmeriCorps. The Peace Corps opposed the authorization for VfP. It is ironic that the Peace Corps opposed VfP and did not move to take it over, given that the Peace Corps has now organized a similar program: Peace Corps Response. (If the Peace Corps takes over management of VfP, it’s not clear how VfP and Response might be meshed or merged.) Fortunately, both AmeriCorps and VfP were enacted. We hope that Peace Corps alumni will support this five to six fold increase in the number of international placements rather than merely defending the Peace Corps. We believe it’s time for the Congress to invest in VfP as it has invested in AmeriCorps so that we can preserve and increase the number of international placements.
To set up this competition, the Committee should adopt the amendments to the VfP authorizing legislation which are attached. And regarding Peace Corps reform, we have attached draft legislation to the Committee encompassing all of our recommendations.
Summary and Conclusion
In our statement we have explained why we were not surprised by the 20/20 expose. We have documented the hostility of the Peace Corps to Volunteer whistle blowers and its insensitivity to victims of rape and sexual assault. We have put these facts in the context of an agency that is hierarchical, risk averse, bureaucratic, and secretive. It misrepresents early-quit rates, hides results of its own surveys of Volunteers, emphasizes quantity rather than quality, makes false claims to support the expansion campaign, fails to organize itself for First Goal effectiveness, and continues ineffective management practices. These problems paint a consistent and coherent picture of an agency that has lost a sense of its mission.
We have not just complained; we have proposed mandating an array of interlocking systems that will apply pressure from the inside and outside and through market competition to ensure that the Peace Corps embraces reform. We trust that these systems will become a permanent fixture of Peace Corps culture so that the Congress will not again be forced to revisit the reform imperative. We have attached to this statement legislative language on the key reform issues.
The Committee does not need to rely on our viewpoint and recommendations but can listen directly to the Volunteers in the field. The Peace Corps has the email address of every Volunteer. With one key stroke the Committee could send them all a questionnaire about the agency's professionalism and reform options. Do not assume that the Headquarters staff speak for the Volunteers. The Volunteers are the most reliable source of information on the health of the Peace Corps. They have a markedly different point of view from that of management. We are confident that they will confirm our viewpoint and endorse our recommendations.
Thank you for listening to and respecting the Volunteer perspective. The Volunteers are the only reason for the Peace Corps; the agency is nothing without them. The Volunteers will enthusiastically endorse your oversight and legislative agenda for this troubled agency. We must empower Volunteers, enhance Congressional oversight, and encourage the press to ask penetrating questions. The immunity of the Peace Corps to constructive criticism must end.
Finally, with the 20/20 expose raising existential questions and this Committee listening to and respecting the Volunteers, we would like to be more confident that reforms will soon be mandated. But after fighting for reform for six years without success, we remain skeptical that the mandates will be enacted. For over 50 years this has been an agency that no one has been willing or able to hold accountable. We hope that the Committee will prove that our pessimism about the prospects for enacting reform is not warranted. The stakes are too high to abandon this agency. The Peace Corps is still America's best outreach to the world. In its fiftieth anniversary year, the Peace Corps deserves the time and attention needed to hold it to the high ideals with which it was founded. We are happy to answer your questions.
Appendix: Mechanisms for Listening to Volunteer Whistle Blowers on a Confidential Basis and Protecting Them Against Retaliation and Increasing Transparency of the Agency (Taken in part from The Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 932, Dodd/Kennedy: March 1, 2007)
PARTICIPATION OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS IN REVIEWS OF SENIOR STAFF AND PROGRAMS
- (a) Reviews of Senior Staff
- (1) IN GENERAL- The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country, on a confidential basis, regarding the support provided and professionalism of senior staff. The identity of the volunteer shall be kept confidential and the views shall be reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Director. The Country Director may publish these views to the corps of volunteers serving in country.
- (2) CONSIDERATION OF REVIEWS IN CONNECTION WITH CONTRACT DECISIONS- The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given substantial weight in the decision making process with respect to the extension of contracts for Country Directors, Chief Administrative Officers, Peace Corps Medical Officers, and Associate Peace Corps Directors.
- (b) Reviews of Peace Corps Programs
- (1) IN GENERAL- The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country, on a confidential basis, regarding the design, effectiveness, and continued value for the programs in which they serve. The identity of the volunteer shall be kept confidential and the views reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Director. The Country Director may publish these views to the corps of volunteers serving in country.
- (2) CONSIDERATION OF REVIEWS IN CONNECTION WITH PROGRAM DECISIONS- The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given substantial weight in the decision making process with respect to the design of, and continued need for, Peace Corps programs.
- (3) PUBLICATION OF REVIEWS-Such information shall be published in the country with regard to which such information has been submitted on the Peace Corps intranet and available to current Volunteers in such country of service and to those who are invited to serve in such country.
CONFERING WHISTLE BLOWER RIGHTS ON PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF
The Director of the Peace Corps shall ensure that Peace Corps volunteers and staff reporting the misconduct of Peace Corps staff or advocating for reforms are treated in accordance with the provisions of chapter 23 of title 5, United States Code, prohibiting certain personnel practices (commonly referred to as whistleblower protection provisions).
INPUT OF VOLUNTEERS REGARDING SITE SELECTION AND TRAINING CURRICULUM
Country Directors and Associate Peace Corps Directors shall give substantial weight to the recommendations of Peace Corps volunteers regarding--
- (1) Peace Corps site selection, including the placement of additional or subsequent Peace Corps volunteers at existing sites; and
- (2) the training curriculum for Peace Corps volunteers.
TRANSPARENTY REGARDING EARLY TERMINATION RATES OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
In an effort to better determine early termination rates of Peace Corps volunteers, the Peace Corps shall--
- (1) Calculate the rate of early termination amongst Volunteers utilizing the cohort or similar statistical method;
- (2) Publish such data on a yearly basis and include as much demographic data as is feasible in any early termination reporting; and
- (3) Transmit such data to applicants and invitees.
TRANSPARENCY REGARDING SURVEYS OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
The Peace Corps shall publish on line the results of surveys of volunteers, including a country-by-country and program-by-program break out of the results. It shall transmit such information to applicants and invitees.
PROVIDING FOR INCREASED TRANSPARENCY OF THE PEACE CORPS UNDER FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
- (a) If the Peace Corps has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request within the statutory deadline, the agency should be prohibited from withholding any portion of the records under "discretionary" authority and the agency shall be required to release it.
- (b) The Peace Corps shall not charge any fees to requesters for any FOIA request which is not answered within the statutory time limits.
- (c) The Peace Corps shall publish on line all information that it has supplied to the public in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Appendix: Additional Reform Legislative Provisions
DIGITAL PEACE CORPS
The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a system for promoting, by electronic means, improved communication among Peace Corps volunteers and staff, including the establishment of websites and e-mail links for use on a password-only basis by Peace Corps volunteers in country to discuss development strategies, funding sources, best practices guides, Peace Corps management practices and policies, and other issues. Such websites shall have an alumni section for returned volunteers with an interest and experience in supporting volunteer goals and programs, and this section shall be integrated into the larger system accessible to all volunteers. All close of service reports shall be available on such websites or e-mail links.
INDEPENDENCE OF THE PEACE CORPS INSPECTOR GENERAL
The Peace Corps Inspector General shall be appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate.
INVESTIGATIONS OF CRIMES AGAINST PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
The Peace Corps shall report to the Congress on the organization of investigations of crimes against Volunteers, including an evaluation of whether the Peace Corps Inspector General should be given the lead in these investigations.
LIMIT ON NUMBER OF POLITICAL APPOINTEES
The Peace Corps shall be limited to 15 Presidential political appointees.
COMPLIANCE WITH ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT
The Peace Corps shall comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. Public Law 79-404; 5 USC 500 et. seq. in promulgating rules, manual amendments, and similar guidances. Within one year it shall publish existing rules for public comment.
REPEAL OF FIVE-YEAR LIMITATION ON PEACE CORPS PERSONNEL
Sections 2506 (a)(2)(A), (a)(5) and (a)(6) of Peace Corps Act. Public Law 87-293 (September 22, 1961) (as amended) are repealed.
PERSONNEL RIGHTS OF PEACE CORPS EMPLOYEES
Peace Corps staff shall have the same personnel rights as Foreign Service Personnel under 22 USC 3905.
REIMBURSEMENT FOR WORK RELATED EXPENSES OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
- (a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
- (1) The Peace Corps is an agency focused on grassroots, bottom-up development.
- (2) Reimbursement for work-related expenses for demonstration and similar projects is crucial to the success of Peace Corps volunteers.
- (3) Demonstration and similar projects are a very effective method for Peace Corps volunteers to educate people in host countries.
- (b) Funding- There is authorized to be appropriated up to 1 percent of the total amount appropriated for the Peace Corps for fiscal year 2009 and each fiscal year thereafter for reimbursement for work-related expenses for Peace Corps volunteers to carry out demonstration and similar projects that have been approved in advance by the Peace Corps Country Director or his or her designee in the country where the volunteer is serving.
- (c) Reimbursement for work-related Volunteer expenses -
(1) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS
The Director of the Peace Corps shall determine at the beginning of each fiscal year the amount of funding that will be available as reimbursement for work-related Volunteer expends for demonstration and similar projects for that fiscal year and inform each Country Director of the portion of that amount that will be available to distribute to volunteers under the supervision of such Country Director.
(2) AWARDING OF FUNDS
The Director of the Peace Corps shall promulgate rules pursuant to which each Country Director may reimburse Volunteers for work-related expenses utilizing funds made available under this section to eligible Peace Corp volunteers.
To be eligible for reimbursement for work-related expenses under this subsection, a Peace Corps volunteer shall--
- (A) submit to the Country Director or his or her designee of the country where the volunteer is serving a plan for a demonstration or similar project, including an explanation of how the demonstration or similar project will lead to sustainable development and a statement of the efforts the Volunteer has made to secure funding for the demonstration or similar project from non-Peace Corps sources; and
- (B) make a written attestation that funds awarded under this subsection are utilized for the purposes specified in the plan.
(4) AMOUNT OF REIMBURSEMENT
Reimbursement of work-related expenses provided to a volunteer based on his or her application or applications for reimbursement may not exceed a total $1,000, during the his or her initial term of service.
Each Peace Corps volunteer who receives reimbursement under this subsection shall submit to the Country Director or his or her designee of the country where the volunteer is serving before the close of such volunteer's service a report on the demonstration or similar project funded by the reimbursement.
CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING BY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
- (a) Sense of Congress on Assistance in Fundraising- It is the sense of Congress that Peace Corps volunteers should apply for grants and loans from nongovernmental organizations to carry out demonstration projects, including by partnering with governmental and nongovernmental agencies and working with host country nationals.
- (b) Fundraising by Volunteers-
- (1) AUTHORITY-
- (A) IN GENERAL- Subject to subparagraph (B), Peace Corps volunteers are authorized to solicit contributions for demonstration projects from persons personally known to them, including family members, friends, and members of their home community in the United States, and from government and nongovernmental agencies, including, but not limited to working through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. Any such solicitation shall state the demonstration project or projects to which contributed funds will be applied.
- (B) REQUIRED APPROVAL- A Peace Corps volunteer shall seek and receive advance approval from the Country Director of the country where the volunteer is serving before exercising the authority under subparagraph (A).
- (2) ACCOUNTABILITY- Peace Corps volunteers receiving contributions pursuant to the authority under paragraph (1) shall--
- (A) maintain records and receipts to confirm the proper application of contributed funds; and
- (B) ensure that such funds are expended solely for the demonstration project or projects for which they were intended.
- (1) AUTHORITY-
READJUSTMENT ALLOWANCES FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS AND VOLUNTEER LEADERS
- (a) Volunteers- Section 5(c) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2504(c)) is amended in the first sentence by striking `$125' and inserting `$250'.
- (b) Volunteer Leaders- Section 6(1) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2505(1)) is amended by striking `$125' and inserting `$250'.
AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS
Section 3(b)(1) of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2502(b)(1)) is amended to read as follows: `(1) There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the purposes of this Act $400,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, $??? for fiscal year 2011, $??? for fiscal year 2012, and ??? for fiscal year 2013'. NOTE: THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE PEACE CORPS SHOULD DOVETAIL WITH THE AUTHORIZATION FOR VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY. WE HAVE RECOMMENDED THAT HALF OF THE CURRENT PEACE CORPS APPROPRIATIONS, $200 MILLION, BE DIVERTED TO FUND VFP.
AMENDMENTS TO THE KENNEDY SERVE AMERICA ACT (VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY)
Adopt amendments to the VfP program so that it will provide healthy competition for the Peace Corps. Includes amendments to increase authorization for VfP – to be dovetailed with decrease in the authorization for the Peace Corps. Over five years, provide equal authorization for Peace Corps and VfP. Kennedy Serve America Act H.R.1388 (Public Law 111-13) Serve America Act (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] - ENR)
TITLE V--VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY PROGRAM
SEC. 5102. DEFINITIONS.=
In this title:
- (1) VFP OFFICE- The term `VfP Office' means the Office of Volunteers for Prosperity of the United States Agency for International Development. It shall be administered by the Director, Volunteers for Prosperity, who shall report to the Administrator.
NOTE: ONE CENTRAL QUESTION ABOUT VfP IS WHETHER IT SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE MANAGED BY US AID OR MANAGED BY THE PEACE CORPS.
- (2) VFP PROGRAM- The term `VfP Program' means the Volunteers for Prosperity Program established through Executive Order 13317.
- (3) VFPSERVE- The term `VfPServe' means a program established by the VfP Office, in cooperation with the USA Freedom Corps, to provide eligible appropriately skilled  Americans [delete: “professionals”] with matching grants and assistance. [delete: “fixed amount stipends to offset the travel living costs of volunteering abroad.”]
SEC. 5103. OFFICE OF VOLUNTEERS FOR PROSPERITY.
- (a) Functions- The VfP Office shall pursue the objectives of the VfP Program described in subsection
- (b) by--
- (1) implementing the VfPServe Program to provide eligible appropriately skilled * Americans [delete “professionals”] with matching grants and assistance to enable them to serve as volunteers [delete: “fixed amount stipends to offset the travel and living expenses of volunteering abroad with nonprofit organizations”];
NOTE: “MATCHING GRANTS” MEANS THAT THE APPLICANT AND/OR THE NGO MUST SUPPLY MATCHES TO THE VFP CONTRIBUTIONS. THESE MATCHES WILL ENSURE THAT THE APPLICANT AND NGO DEMONSTRATE A COMMITMENT TO THE SERVICE PROJECT.
- (2) otherwise promoting short- and long-term international volunteer service by appropriately skilled * Americans [delete “professionals”], including placing or connecting such individuals [delete “professionals”] with nonprofit organizations, to achieve such objectives through matching grants and assistance;
- (3) helping nonprofit organizations and corporations in the United States recruit and effectively manage additional appropriately skilled * Americans [delete “professionals”] for short or long term volunteer assignments throughout the developing world;
(…) fostering partnerships between the private and public sectors to promote and facilitate the service of appropriately skilled * American volunteers in the developing world through matching grants and assistance;
- (4) providing recognition for appropriately skilled * American volunteers and the organizations deploying them;
- (5) helping nonprofit organizations and corporations in the United States to identify resources and opportunities in international volunteer service utilizing appropriately skilled * Americans through matching grants and assistance;
- (6) encouraging the establishment of international volunteer programs for employees of United States corporations through matching grants and assistance; and
- (7) encouraging international voluntary service by [delete “highly”] appropriately skilled * Americans to promote health and prosperity throughout the world.
(…) promoting and supporting initiatives of nonprofit organizations and corporations in the developing world to foster establishment of a non-profit sector and a tradition of voluntary service through matching grants and assistance.
- (b) VfP Program Objectives- The objectives of the VfP Program volunteers are to provide service that achieves sustainable development in
- (1) eliminating extreme poverty;
- (2) reducing world hunger and malnutrition;
- (3) increasing access to safe potable water;
- (4) enacting universal education;
- (5) reducing child mortality and childhood diseases;
- (6) combating the spread of preventable diseases, including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis;
- (7) providing educational and work skill support for girls and empowering women to achieve independence;
- (8) creating sustainable business and entrepreneurial opportunities; and
- (9) increasing access to information technology.
(new) fostering establishment of a non-profit sector and tradition of volunteering in the developing world. NOTE: THE EMPHASIS ON “SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT” ENSURES THAT THE VOLUNTARY SERVICE BENEFITS THE HOST COUNTRY NATIONALS, NOT JUST THE VOLUNTEER.
- (c) Volunteers for Prosperity Service Incentive Program- (1) IN GENERAL The VfP Office may provide matching grants to offset the travel [delete: “and”], living costs of volunteering abroad, and insurance costs and reasonable fees, including service program fees, for the organization with whom the volunteer serves for expenses associated with orientation and administration of the volunteer program to any eligible organization that--
- (A) has members who possess appropriate skills relevant to addressing any objective described in subsection
- (b); and
- (B) provides a dollar-for-dollar match for such grant--
- (i) through the organization with which the individual is serving; or
- (ii) by raising private funds.
- (B) provides a dollar-for-dollar match for such grant--
The grants shall be paid to sponsoring organization on behalf of a appropriately skilled * American. The matching grants shall not exceed $10,000 and may not be used for tuition costs of the volunteer. This figure shall be adjusted annually for inflation. NOTE: IF VfP WERE TO AWARD $10,000 TO EVERY APPLICANT, IT WOULD COST 1/5 AS MUCH AS THE PEACE CORPS COST FOR ONE VOLUNTEER FOR ONE YEAR. IF VfP WERE TO AWARD AN AVERAGE OF $5,000, IT WOULD COST 1/10 AS MUCH. SO, IF VfP WERE TO BE APPROPRIATED $200 MILLION – HALF OF THE PEACE CORPS BUDGET – IT COULD FIELD 40,000 VOLUNTEERS – AS COMPARED TO 4,000 PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS. NOTE: THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE NGO PROVIDE A DETAILED ITIMIZATION OF ITS EXPENSES ASSOCIATED WITH MANAGEMENT OF A SPECIFIC VOLUNTEER. IT MAY SET A STANDARD FEE FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS – A FEE THAT IS SUBJECT TO MARKET PRESSURES TO KEEP IT REASONABLE.
(2) NONDISCRIMINATION REQUIREMENT The VfP Office may not provide a stipend to an individual under paragraph (1) unless the nonprofit organization to which the individual is assigned has certified to the VfP Office that it does not discriminate with respect to any project or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, including a stipend under this title, because of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, political affiliation, or beliefs.
(3) The nonprofit organizations shall provide the VfP Office with evidence and metrics regarding the impact of their volunteer programs on sustainable development and the participants in VfP shall file reports on their service, including the impact of their service on sustainable development. Such information shall be made available to applicants for VfP to enable them to make better informed decisions regarding their own applications. NOTE: THIS INFORMATION WILL CREATE MARKET WITH INCENTIVES TO THE SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS TO CONTINUALLY UPGRADE THEIR MANAGEMENT OF THE VFP VOLUNTEERS AND THE IMPACT OF THEIR SERVICE ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
- (3) COMPLIANCE WITH INELIGIBLE SERVICE CATEGORIES- Service carried out by a volunteer receiving funds under this section may not provide a direct benefit to any--
- (A) business organized for profit;
- (B) labor union;
- (C) partisan political organization; or
- (D) religious or faith-based organization for the purpose of proselytization, worship or any other explicitly religious activity.
- (d) Funding-
- (1) IN GENERAL- The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall make available the amounts appropriated pursuant to section 5104 to the VfP Office to pursue the objectives described in subsection (b) by carrying out the functions described in subsection (a).
- (2) USE OF FUNDS- Amounts made available under paragraph (1) may be used by the VfP Office to provide personnel and other resources to develop, manage, and expand the VfP Program, under the supervision of the United States Agency for International Development.
- (e) Coordination- The VfP Office shall coordinate its efforts with other public and private efforts that aim to send appropriately skilled * [delete: “professionals”] Americans to serve in developing nations.
- (f) Report- The VfP Office shall submit an annual report to Congress and the public on the activities of the VfP Office which shall include an assessment developed in collaboration with US Aid of the impact of the program on sustainable development.
SEC. 5104. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
- (a) In General- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this title $10,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, and [delete: “such sums as may be necessary for each of the fiscal years 2011 through 2014”] and such sums thereafter.
NOTE: THE AUTHORIZATION FOR VfP SHOULD DOVETAIL WITH THE AUTHORIZATION FOR THE PEACE CORPS. WE HAVE RECOMMENDED THAT HALF OF THE CURRENT PEACE CORPS APPROPRIATIONS, $200 MILLION, BE DIVERTED TO FUND VFP.
- (b) Allocation of Funds- Not more than 10 percent of the amounts appropriated pursuant to subsection (a) may be expended for the administrative costs of the United States Agency for International Development to manage the VfP Program.
Appendix: Analysis of Peace Corps 2011 Whistle Blower Policy
The same day of the airing of the ABC 20/20 expose of the murder of a Volunteer whistle blower by Peace Corps staff in Benin, the Peace Corps issued its first rules regarding Volunteer whistle blower. A copy of these new rules is printed below. This analysis shows that the rules – which appear as amendments to the Peace Corps Manual – are narrow and weak and confirms the view that the Peace Corps remains hostile to empowering Volunteers and that only with the enactment of legislation can Volunteer whistle blowers receive the protection and respect that they deserve. It is clear that the Peace Corps intends to use these new amendments to the Manual as an argument against enactment of legislation mandating that the Peace Corps protect the confidentiality of Volunteer whistle blowers and give them protections against retaliation. But, if the Peace Corps has finally acknowledged that Volunteer whistle blowers deserve protection, it surely has no argument left against the Congress ensuring that these protections become a permanent element of the Peace Corps Act and culture.
A. New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers
On January 14, 2011 the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security and Office of Global Operations (OSS/OGO) promulgated an amendment to the Peace Corps Manual regarding “handling of Volunteer / Trainee Allegations.” The amendment focuses on “misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy by Peace Corps staff or contractors or in connection with Peace Corps programs or operations; and on the handling of allegations or other concerns of Volunteers or Trainees about the conduct of host country nationals who are not Peace Corps staff regarding behavior and other matters that are beyond the legal jurisdiction of Peace Corps.” The amendment gives Volunteers the right to report violations to the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General. The amendment states that “Any Peace Corps staff member who receives or has knowledge of a V/T allegation or concern must treat the information with the utmost discretion and confidentiality” and “appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the V/T’s safety [and if] there is any uncertainty, it is critical that managers err on the side of caution and take every measure to ensure V/T safety.” The amendment also states that “No Peace Corps staff person may retaliate in any manner against a V/T because the V/T reported an allegation or concern under this subsection.”
The new Manual amendment “supersedes” a March 27, 2009 memo of the Peace Corps Office of General Counsel” regarding Volunteer whistle blowers. The OGC memo is not an official agency rule. Technically, the Peace Corps does not issue “rules” in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which requires agencies to publish their proposed rules as drafts before they take effect, solicit public comment on them, give the public access to the rulemaking record so it can analyze the draft rule, analyze and respond to the public comments before finalizing the rule, and publish a complete record of the basis for the rule that may be subject to judicial review. The Peace Corps Manual is the Peace Corps’ equivalent of what for every other agency are “rules.” Under the APA, it can take a year or even many years to promulgate a final rule. But, because the Peace Corps does not comply with the APA, it can choose to amend the Manual in a matter of days. The OGC memo clearly has a much lower status than an amendment to the Peace Corps Manual. On March 10, 2010, a year after the OGC memo had been issued, we filed a FOIA request was filed with the Peace Corps requesting “Procedures for Peace Corps whistle blowers, including procedures for preserving their right to confidentiality, for protecting them against retaliation and for investigating their reports/complaints” and “Communications between the Peace Corps and the Office of Personnel Management regarding whether Volunteers have or could be granted whistle blower status under the Federal whistle blower statute.” The Peace Corps found that there were no documents on these two subjects, so even the Peace Corps itself seems to have not been aware of a 2009 PC OGC memo. As the Peace Corps seems to acknowledge in failing to locate the OGC memo in response to our FOIA request, an OGC memo has a substantially lesser status than that of a Manual amendment and is not a part of the official rules of the agency. If the Peace Corps had thought that the subject matter of the OGM memo was important, it surely would have moved expeditiously to incorporate it in the Peace Corps Manual. That this only happened on the day of the 20/20 expose casts doubt on the importance that the Peace Corps gives to protecting whistle blowers. It seems to indicate that giving the appearance of protecting Volunteer whistle blowers is more important than the reality of actually doing so.
B. Timing of New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers
In terms of the timing of the policy announcement, it’s clear that it was issued not because of the fact that Kate Puzey was murdered but because of the fact that the murder was about to the subject of a 20/20 expose. In this sense, the policy announcement is an obvious public relations ploy. The Federal Whistle Blower Protection Act became law in 1978. In 2007 Senator Dodd introduced legislation to protect Volunteer whistle blowers. The Peace Corps belittled, opposed and killed these proposals. In 2009 Senator Dodd introduced legislation requesting that the Peace Corps “assess mechanisms” for soliciting the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis. The Peace Corps refused to do so in its June 2010 “comprehensive” assessment.
C. Substance of New Peace Corps Rules Regarding Whistle Blowers
Given the Peace Corps’ history of hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers, it is difficult to believe that the Peace Corps is now committed to protecting and respecting these Volunteers. An analysis of the substance of the new policy confirms this view.
- 1. For thirty-three Federal employees have filed whistle blower complaints with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). One can only be suspicious why the Peace Corps proposes to set up another approach with Peace Corps Volunteers that does not permit them to file complaints with an agency independent of the Peace Corps. OPM is an expert with regard to WB issues and protecting whistle blowers. The Peace Corps obviously is not an expert and has shown decades of hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers. Why should Volunteers be forced to file their complains with their own agency rather than an independent one?
- 2. It appears that Peace Corps staff, who are considered to be “temporary employees” because of the five-year rule, are not covered by the Federal Whistle Blower statute, so they should be given whistle blower rights, not just Volunteers.
- 3. In permitting Volunteers to bring issues to the Peace Corps Inspector General (PC IG), the new amendment does nothing new. Volunteers have always had the right to file complaints with the PC IG. We filed multiple complaints with the PC IG while we were serving as Volunteers (2005-2007). Sadly, in our case, the PC IG took no actions with regarding to these complaints.
- 4. The new amendment is confusing on one crucial point: who is the leader within the Peace Corps hierarchy in handling these allegations, the PC IG or the OSS? This confusion is understandable given that the responsibility of the PC IG to investigate crimes against Volunteers was transferred to the OSS – over the vociferous objections of the PG IG. It appears that this transfer occurred so that the Peace Corps could minimize the bad publicity that arises from vigorously investigating these crimes. See attachment for in depth discussion of this issue. Given this history of tensions, the policy statement should guidance on how the PC IG and OSS are supposed to work together or differentiate their roles and responsibilities.
- 5. This confusion will have an impact on Volunteers as well. They should be told explicitly that their primary obligation and option is to bring their complaints to the PC IG office, not the OSS.
- 6. In addition, the new amendment does not clearly reassure Volunteers that the PC IG office is bound to handle their complaints on a confidential basis and protect them against retaliation.
- 7. The new amendment does not give the PC IG or the OSS authority to intervene with other Peace Corps staff, including Country Directors, to supervise their management of Volunteer whistle blowers, to direct that they take action to protect the Volunteers, to take personnel actions with respect to staff subject of the complaints, or take actions to correct the mismanagement of programs.
- 8. To be clear, as a matter of organizational structure, it makes no sense for Volunteers to bring the PC IG or OSS in to address every issue of mismanagement.
- 9. Given the location of the PC IG and OSS, is it not likely that they will be able to act in a timely manner based on a complete and accurate understanding of fast breaking developments on the ground abroad.
- 10. The new amendment puts the onus on the Volunteer to take action to file complaints.
- 11. The new amendment does not establish a listening mechanism where the Peace Corps routinely solicits the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis. This is the core strategy of Senator Dodd’s Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act of 2007.
- 12. This means that the new Peace Corps policy will tend to postpone identification of problems until they reach the crisis stage.
- 13. The new amendment is likely to be interpreted by Volunteers as applying only to criminal or other extraordinarily unprofessional conduct of staff.
- 14. The Volunteers are not likely to think that the new amendment applies to routine complaints about programs, training, sites, support and the other issues that affect the Volunteers performance.
- 15. The new amendment specifies no penalties or consequences to be imposed on the PC IG, OSS or other staff who violate the policy regarding confidentiality and retaliation.
- 16. The new amendment includes no rights or remedies for a Volunteer whose confidentiality is violated or against whom retaliation occurs.
- 17. The PC IG office has not been appropriately expanded or trained so that it can handle the filing of these complaints.
- 18. The PC IG is not appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The IG is appointed by the political appointees at the Peace Corps. He or she is not independent of these political appointees.
- 19. The OSS was set up precisely because it is managed the agency’s political appointees. This is not reassuring given the agency’s long-term hostility to Volunteer whistle blowers.
- 20. The new amendment was not issued in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires that it be published for comment. Because it is not an APA rule, there is no judicial review available to challenge it.
- 21. It appears that the new amendment was promulgated without any input from the Volunteers.
- 22. The new amendment is valid only until the Peace Corps amends or rescinds it. It’s not mandated in the Peace Corps Act and not permanent.
- 23. It appears that the Peace Corps has not taken steps to inform the Volunteers of the new amendment or to train them in its implementation.
All in all, it’s clear that the new amendment is narrow, weak and cumbersome. This is not surprising given that the new amendment was adopted under duress and not due to a change of heart at the agency regarding Volunteer whistle blowers. It is clear that the Peace Corps intends to use this new amendment as an argument against enactment of legislation mandating that the Peace Corps protect the confidentiality of Volunteer whistle blowers and give them protections against retaliation.
D. Legislative Proposals Regarding Protections of Peace Corps Whistle Blowers
In 2007 Senator Dodd introduced legislation to mandate that the Peace Corps establish mechanisms for soliciting the views of Volunteers regarding Peace Corps staff and programs. It also gave Volunteers whistle blower status under the Federal Whistle Blower Act of 1978. This approach is far preferable to the new Peace Corps Manual amendment and this mandate would ensure that confidentiality and protections become a permanent feature of the Peace Corps culture. This point of view is discussed in depth in the attachments.
OSS/OGO Amendment to Peace Corps Manual
January 14, 2011/ March 27, 2009 PC OGC Memo Excerpt from July 24, 2009 Comprehensive Peace Corps Reform Plan: Point Seventeen: Ensure Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Again Leads Investigations of Violent Crimes Against Volunteers/Staff
MS 271 HANDLING OF VOLUNTEER/TRAINEE ALLEGATIONS Date: January 14, 2011 Responsible Office: Office of Safety and Security and Office of Global Operations Supersedes: IPS 1-09 3/27/09
- 1.0 AUTHORITY
The Peace Corps Act, 22 U.S.C. 2503 (b); Executive Order 12137 (1979)
- 2.0 PURPOSE
This Manual Section sets forth Peace Corps policies on the handling of allegations by Volunteers or Trainees of misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy by Peace Corps staff or contractors or in connection with Peace Corps programs or operations; and on the handling of allegations or other concerns of Volunteers or Trainees about the conduct of host country nationals who are not Peace Corps staff regarding behavior and other matters that are beyond the legal jurisdiction of Peace Corps.
- 3.0 POLICIES
- (a) Volunteers/Trainees (V/Ts) must be informed of their rights and Peace Corps expectations with respect to bringing to the attention of Peace Corps allegations of misconduct, mismanagement, violations of law or policy that relate to Peace Corps staff, contractors, programs, and operations.
- (b) V/Ts must also be informed that they may discuss with Peace Corps staff allegations or concerns on topics or issues that are beyond the legal jurisdiction of Peace Corps, such as behavior by a local national with whom the V/T has regular contact but who does not work for Peace Corps or participate directly in a Peace Corps project or program.
- (c) V/Ts must be provided open access and appropriate channels in which to raise the types of allegations and concerns referred to in subsections (a) and (b) above, with an understanding and commitment that their allegations and concerns will be given appropriate attention; that no V/T will be retaliated against by Peace Corps staff for bringing forth allegations and concerns; and that management will take every step necessary to ensure the safety of any V/T.
- 4.0 INSPECTOR GENERAL
With respect to the rights and Peace Corps expectations referred to in Section 3 (a) above, V/Ts must be informed that they should report to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) any activity which they reasonably believe constitutes (1) a violation of federal law, rule, or regulation; (2) mismanagement; (3) serious misconduct; (4) gross waste of funds; (5) abuse of authority; or (6) a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety relating to the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. See MS 861. Such reports will be handled by the OIG as set forth in MS 861.
- 5.0 HANDLING ALLEGATIONS AND CONCERNS
- (a) V/Ts may report allegations and concerns referred to in Section 3.0 to senior staff at post, the appropriate Regional Director, Associate Director for Safety and Security, Associate Director for Global Operations, or other appropriate officer at Headquarters.
- (b) Any Peace Corps staff member who receives or has knowledge of a V/T allegation or concern must treat the information with the utmost discretion and confidentiality consistent with appropriate handling of such information and applicable law, including where appropriate, referral to the OIG or other legal authorities.
- (c) Based upon the nature of the allegations or concerns and the totality of available facts, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the V/T’s safety. If there is any uncertainty, it is critical that managers err on the side of caution and take every measure to ensure V/T safety.
- (d) No Peace Corps staff person may retaliate in any manner against a V/T because the V/T reported an allegation or concern under this subsection.
- (e) All allegations or concerns identified by V/Ts will be given serious consideration and review and will be handled, resolved or disposed of, as appropriate, by management and/or the OIG.
- (f) Nothing in this Manual Section should be construed to exempt a V/T from the requirements to follow the rules and policies set forth in MS 204 Volunteer Conduct, or to preclude the Peace Corps from taking appropriate action against persons who knowingly make false statements or accusations
- 6.0 EFFECTIVE DATE
The effective date is the date of issuance.
IPS 1-09 - Handling of Volunteer/Trainee Allegations
Date: March 27, 2009 Responsible Office: Office of the General Counsel Issuance Memo
- 1.0 Purpose
The purpose of this Interim Policy Statement is to set out explicitly Peace Corps policies for handling allegations by a Volunteer or Trainee of misconduct, mismanagement, or violations of law or policy.
- 2.0 Policies
- 2.1 Volunteers/Trainees (V/Ts) must be informed that they should report to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) any activity which they reasonably believe constitutes a violation of federal law, rule, or regulation; mismanagement; serious misconduct; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety relating to the programs and operations of the Peace Corps. See MS 861 Office of the Inspector General . Such reports will be handled by the OIG as set forth in MS 861.
- (a) V/Ts may also report such allegations to senior staff at post or to the appropriate Regional Director.
- (b) Any Peace Corps staff member receiving an allegation from a V/T must treat the information with the utmost discretion and confidentiality consistent with appropriate handling of the allegation and applicable law, including where appropriate, referral to the OIG or other legal authorities.
- (c) No Peace Corps staff person may retaliate in any manner against a V/T because the V/T reported an allegation under this subsection. Nothing in this IPS should be construed to exempt a V/T from the requirement to behave in accordance with MS 204 Volunteer Conduct.
- (d) All allegations by V/Ts will be given serious consideration and review and will be handled and resolved or disposed of, as appropriate, by management and/or the OIG.
- (e) Based upon the nature of the allegations and the totality of available facts, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the V/T's safety.
- 3.0 Effective Date
The effective date is the date of issuance. Authored By Carl Sosebee Mar 27, 2009