United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

OGE and the Inspector General Community
July 17, 2015

by Walter M. Shaub, Jr.
 
In 1978, Congress passed both the Ethics in Government Act and the Inspector General Act as part of a series of reforms following the Watergate scandal. The bills that would become these laws came out of the same Congressional committee in the same month. Since that time, OGE and agency Inspectors General have worked together to ensure that the American public can have confidence in the integrity of its government.

OGE's mission is one of prevention and part of the very foundation of public service. The first principle in the Fourteen Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees reminds us that, "Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain." Public servants are expected to make impartial decisions based on the interests of the public when performing their job duties. Most federal employees are wholeheartedly committed to this principle. For the few individuals who fall short, Inspectors General play a critical role in investigating misconduct and ensuring they are held accountable.

OGE provides direct support to investigators from offices of Inspectors General who request assistance with the interpretation and application of federal conflict of interest laws and ethics rules. Each year, OGE instructors also provide training at the Inspector General Criminal Investigation Academy, focusing on investigating ethics-related matters and working with ethics officials. This government ethics training has become a standard part of the Academy's curriculum and complements a web-based training module that OGE developed for investigators. OGE also recently invited Inspectors General to attend the 2014 National Government Ethics Summit, both in-person and virtually. OGE designed a variety of sessions at the Summit to support the important work of Inspectors General.

OGE also engages with Inspectors General in the course of its program reviews of agency ethics programs. During this process, OGE's program reviewers emphasize the important role that Inspectors General play in ensuring the integrity of agency programs and operations. OGE's program reviewers meet with an agency's Inspector General to assess and strengthen the relationship between the agency's ethics program and the Inspector General office. They also seek to determine whether the Office of the Inspector General and other agency offices have effective processes for notifying OGE of criminal referrals to the Department of Justice implicating government ethics. In addition, at the conclusion of its program reviews, OGE provides the Inspectors General with copies of the program review reports concerning their agencies. 

As Director, I recognize the critical role played by Inspectors General, and I make supporting the Inspector General community a priority. I also serve as a standing member of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and that body's Integrity Committee. OGE will continue to work closely with the Inspector General community to enforce the government's ethics rules.