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The Role of Ethics Officials in Supporting Federal Employees to Carry Out Their Jobs with Integrity

July 23, 2021

By: Emory Rounds, Director

Government employees do many important jobs. There are employees who protect our health, help create jobs, or make sure the elderly have enough money when they retire. Other employees make sure we have clean air to breathe and water to drink. And at all times, government employees need the trust of the people they serve.

There are rules that apply to all executive branch employees to help them keep that trust. Sometimes employees need help understanding these rules. When they do have questions, they have someone to call for help: an agency ethics official. There are thousands of ethics officials in the executive branch, working in every agency to help employees do their jobs with honesty and fairness. They help create a government that you can trust to treat you fairly. 

Imagine a big company polluting a river and killing all the fish. The government might investigate and order the company to stop polluting. But what if the company was to offer a gift to the government investigator to get them to stop investigating? The investigator would have been trained to see this as a red flag and to either outright decline the offer or call an ethics official for guidance. The ethics official would tell the investigator not to take the gift because it is against the rules. The ethics official might also contact the agency Inspector General or the Department of Justice about the offered gift, because the company may have broken the law in offering it. By asking an ethics official for advice, the investigator would have protected the integrity of the investigation. Together, the ethics official and the investigator also would have protected the public trust.

Government employees work hard to keep us safe, prosperous, and healthy. Ethics officials help employees follow the rules in order to keep their work fair to everyone.