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

OGE Advances a Strong, Uniform Executive Branch Ethics Program

The public can trust the integrity of agency operations when a strong, uniform ethics program is in place to identify and resolve potential conflicts of interest. To advance a strong, uniform ethics program, OGE carries out the activities described below.

OGE interprets and advises on ethics laws, policies, and program management:
Maintaining a uniform legal framework ensures that all executive branch employees are held to the same standards. Since the Civil War, the federal government has had laws in place to prevent executive branch employees from making decisions based on their own financial interests. In 1989, OGE was directed to establish a single, comprehensive, and clear set of executive branch standards of conduct that shall be objective, reasonable, and enforceable. Executive Order 12674. The Standards of Conduct covering 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. In addition, OGE has issued regulations addressing the management of agency ethics programs, including procedures related to public and confidential financial disclosure and ethics training. OGE periodically reviews the Standards of Conduct and its other regulations to determine whether targeted revisions are necessary to ensure their continued effectiveness and applicability in a 21st century government.

OGE interprets and advises on the ethics rules and policies to assist agency ethics officials in providing consistent and accurate counseling to their employees in order to prevent or remedy conflicts of interest. OGE provides written guidance to agencies through legal and program advisories and on-demand support through its Desk Officer program. Desk Officers provide agency ethics officials with instant access to expert advice on applying the ethics laws and regulations.

OGE holds agencies accountable for carrying out effective ethics programs through its oversight and monitoring activities:
OGE evaluates agency ethics programs for compliance by conducting onsite reviews; collecting and analyzing annual reports about program administration provided by agencies; reviewing annual, periodic transaction, and termination financial disclosure reports of senior government officials; monitoring senior government officials' compliance with ethics agreements; and supporting the work of Inspectors General and prosecutors. Through these efforts, OGE assesses and mitigates program vulnerabilities in individual agencies, identifies executive branch-wide trends and issues, and disseminates model practices.

OGE contributes to the professional development of ethics officials:
OGE's success in leading the decentralized executive branch ethics program relies on an informed community of ethics officials. Executive branch employees rely on ethics officials at their agencies to assist them in detecting and avoiding potential conflicts of interest. OGE educates ethics officials so that employees can have confidence in the counseling they receive from these officials. OGE focuses on providing ethics officials with professional development opportunities to attain the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully carry out the duties of their positions.

OGE delivers professional development opportunities to both new and experienced ethics officials through in-person classes and workshops, distance learning virtual offerings, and large ethics education symposia hosted in government facilities. These opportunities focus on understanding and applying the Standards of Conduct, the criminal conflict of interest statutes, and the financial disclosure regulations. Also covered are the tools required to run an effective ethics program. OGE also develops and disseminates ethics training courses and materials for ethics officials to use in training their own employees.