Each year, OGE publishes a
survey of prosecutions of federal employees alleged to have violated criminal
conflict of interest laws. You might ask
why OGE would focus on alleged ethical failures, given that OGE’s primary
mission to prevent conflicts of
interest. The reason is that the survey
illustrates the high standards to which federal employees are held and the
potential consequences for the few found to have violated the public’s trust. A comprehensive ethics program necessarily
includes not only safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest before they occur
but also mechanisms for enforcing ethics rules if they are violated. One such mechanism is disciplinary action,
including termination of federal employment, and the U.S. Merit SystemsProtection Board publishes decisions in cases involving serious adverse
employment actions. Another mechanism is
prosecution if misconduct rises to the level of criminality. OGE’s Prosecution Survey provides examples of
this mechanism in action.
In 2013, OGE collected
data from U.S. Department of Justice offices that conducted such prosecutions
during the previous year, and OGE has posted the findings of that survey on its
website. OGE’s Prosecution Survey serves
several purposes for the executive branch ethics program. The survey draws
attention to the important work of federal Inspectors General, who investigate
potential violations of the criminal conflict of interest laws, and to the
prosecutors in U.S. Attorney offices throughout the country and in DOJ’s Office
of Public Integrity, who litigate the cases.
The survey is a useful training tool because it provides examples of how
the criminal conflict of interest laws are applied in cases involving real
situations and real employees, making abstract principles concrete for federal
ethics officials and employees alike.
The survey serves as a deterrent by showing that violators will be held
accountable. The survey also supports
OGE’s goals of making the executive branch ethics program transparent and
bolstering public confidence in the integrity of government operations.
The most recent edition
of OGE’s Prosecution Survey and past editions dating from the 1990s are
available to the public on OGE’s website.