May 12, 2020
Usually, when you read about ethics in government, it is because something has gone wrong. And usually when you read about a government IT project, it is because it is over budget and late.
This note is not about something gone awry, but about the success of Integrity, OGE’s electronic public financial disclosure system— a system that in five short years has improved how the highest government leaders disclose potential conflicts of interest, so they can serve the public with impartiality and without conflicts, even during disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2013, when Congress and the President tasked OGE, a small, 70-plus person agency with no significant contracting or systems experience, with building an executive branchwide electronic public financial disclosure system, it was daunting. But despite innumerable challenges, OGE was determined to succeed. OGE partnered within government, secured funding, brought together the best expertise, and harnessed existing government platforms and secure infrastructure to launch the system within budget by 2015. Remarkably, by 2016 the system was successfully handling the test of a full presidential transition with high satisfaction rates and successful, independent security assessments.
Integrity has transformed the entire executive branch disclosure process. Now used by over 130 agencies and 22,000 public financial disclosure filers in the executive branch, Integrity has replaced an inefficient patchwork of paper forms, scanned and emailed pdf documents, and rudimentary online systems that required filers and reviewers to begin the financial disclosure process from scratch each year. Its question wizard, designed by financial disclosure experts, helps senior government officials file faster, and file more complete and accurate disclosures. Well-designed workflows help reviewer’s process reports more quickly and with greater accuracy. The improved reporting format makes disclosures easier for senators considering a presidential nomination and for members of the public to understand. All of this means that more complete, accurate, and easier to read disclosures are available to the public sooner.
Integrity is not just an OGE success; it is a success for the whole executive branch and for the public. The system helps thousands of senior government officials to remotely and electronically file clearer and more uniform financial disclosure reports with greater efficiency. These reports are made available to the public so that they can ensure their government’s leaders are free from conflicts of interest. The value of Integrity is even more apparent during the pandemic while virtual access is necessary and public trust matters most.