The mission of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is to foster high ethical standards for executive branch employees and strengthen the public’s confidence that the Government’s business is conducted with impartiality and integrity.
OGE, established by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, is the agency that provides overall direction, oversight, and accountability of Executive Branch policies designed to prevent and resolve conflicts of interest. OGE is also charged with promoting high ethical standards for Executive Branch employees. Specifically, OGE is responsible for:
While OGE sets policy for the executive branch ethics program, the head of each agency has primary responsibility for the ethics program in that agency. To support the day-to-day activities of the ethics program, each agency head selects an individual to serve as the agency's designated agency ethics official. Depending on the size of the agency, there may be additional professional ethics support staff. Currently there are approximately 5,700 ethics officials working across 133 agencies. OGE works with this ethics community by providing oversight, advice, and training.
OGE has no role in the ethics programs of the legislative or judicial branches of the federal government. Similarly, OGE has no jurisdiction over state or local government ethics programs. OGE does not conduct investigations and cannot represent citizens in legal matters. For more information on other U.S. Government entities with ethics and/or conduct related authority, click here.
Keep reading to learn how OGE fulfills its responsibilities.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush issued Executive Order 12674 setting forth fourteen fundamental principles of ethical service. The Order directed OGE to write “a single, comprehensive, and clear set of executive branch standards of conduct that shall be objective, reasonable, and enforceable.” The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch became effective in 1993. The Standards of Conduct – which cover issues such as gifts, conflicting financial interests, impartiality, seeking employment, misuse of position, and outside activities – are designed to address not only actual conflicts of interest but also activities that give rise to the appearance of such conflicts. Learn more about common ethics issues on the pages discussing common ethics topics.
In addition to establishing the Standards of Conduct, OGE maintains a uniform legal framework of Government ethics for executive branch employees. Through its Legal Advisories, OGE provides guidance to agencies on how the Standards of Conduct apply to executive branch employees and interprets certain criminal conflict of interest statutes.
The financial disclosure program is designed to help agencies spot and prevent conflicts of interest before they occur and to promote confidence in the integrity of Government decision-making. Through regulation, OGE establishes the procedures for administering the executive branch financial disclosure system. In addition, OGE has an important role in certifying the financial disclosure reports for all Presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate and the most senior White House staff members. Finally, through monitoring and oversight, OGE ensures that agencies implement effective financial disclosure processes.
OGE regularly reviews agency ethics programs to ensure that each agency has an effective ethics program tailored to its mission. The reviews cover areas such as ethics agreements, written advice and counseling, education and training, financial disclosure and agency-specific requirements, and enforcement. The reviews are accomplished in accordance with detailed review guidelines (PDF) (HTML) and are scheduled in advance as part of an annual program plan.
OGE ensures that ethics officials have the knowledge required to effectively carry out their duties. OGE delivers training to both new and experienced agency ethics officials through workshops and seminars. Training focuses on understanding and applying the standards of ethical conduct, the criminal conflict of interest statutes, and the financial disclosure regulations, as well as the tools required to run an effective ethics program. In addition, OGE develops and makes available ethics training courses and materials for agency ethics officials to use in conducting ethics training for their employees. Learn more about OGE’s education resources.
OGE regularly makes presentations to universities, public administration groups, bar associations, and government contractors about the federal executive branch ethics program. OGE also participates in academic and private sector organizations to develop mutually beneficial projects and to promote ethics as a profession.
OGE learns about and shares good practices with state and local governments through the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL). OGE also has a robust international program: at the request of U.S. foreign policy agencies, OGE participates in anti-corruption and good governance activities with organizations such as the United Nations, Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Organization of American States.