BP plans to bring whistle-blower office in-house

BP is considering dismantling the ombudsman's office it created to handle whistle-blower complaints after the company's major oil spills at Prudhoe Bay four years ago.

BP created the office to give its U.S. employees and contractors a new way to report problems -- the company admitted it had not been responsive to concerns the workers had raised about lack of proper upkeep on the Slope's aging equipment.

Through the ombudsman, retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin, workers have since had round-the-clock, confidential access to a person outside BP who can launch third-party investigations.

Sporkin said he handles about a dozen new complaints per month. In February he counted that he had received 112 complaints relating to BP's Alaska operations and 90 from elsewhere in the country since the creation of his office in late 2006.

This fall the office is especially busy, perhaps because of increased concern from workers after BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster this year, said Billie Garde, Sporkin's deputy.

But the clock is ticking on the ombudsman's office.

Though Sporkin said he personally thinks corporations like BP should consider a permanent, third-party ombudsman for workers, the London-based oil company doesn't see it that way.

BP says it plans to bring its whistle-blower program in-house at some point -- perhaps as soon as June.

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