Records Management and Release

The release of ethics records, including public financial disclosure reports, is vital to promoting public confidence in executive branch decision-making. Ethics programs play a crucial role by increasing accountability and transparency for officials at the highest levels of government.

In addition, sound management of ethics records:

  • supports efficient ethics program operations
  • ensures the agency can produce records upon request
  • protects the privacy rights of employees and others
  • ensures the agency maintains ethics records in accordance with law
  • reduces liability
  • saves space

Responsibilities of the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO)

The DAEO, acting directly or through other officials, is responsible for maintaining records of agency ethics program activities and must promptly make available to the public copies of public financial disclosure reports filed with their agency. For other records, the DAEO understands the interplay between the Ethics in Government Act, the Privacy Act (including release under routine uses established in OGE/GOVT-1 and -2), and the Freedom of Information Act. The DAEO should consult with their agency’s FOIA and/or privacy offices before releasing records other than those required to be released by section 105 of the Ethics in Government Act.


Key Legal Authorities

5 C.F.R. § 2638.104(c)(2) – Records responsibilities of the DAEO

5 U.S.C. app. § 105– Custody of and access to public financial disclosure report

5 C.F.R. § 2634.603– Custody of and access to public financial disclosure reports

18 U.S.C. § 208(d)(1) – Release of 18 U.S.C. § 208 waivers

5 C.F.R. § 2634.1008– Public access to a Certificate of Divestiture

5 C.F.R. § 2634.413– Public access to qualified trusts

5 C.F.R. § 2634.304– Public disclosure of request for waiver of gift reporting

5 C.F.R. § 2634.205– Public disclosure of request for waiver of public reporting requirements

5 U.S.C. § 552a– The Privacy Act

5 C.F.R. § 2634.205– The Freedom of Information Act


Key Advisories

PA-20-06: Revisions to the Governmentwide Systems of Records Covering Ethics Records

This Program Advisory details the recent revisions to the OGE/GOVT-1 and OGE/GOVT-2 governmentwide systems of records covering ethics records. The changes included several new and modified routine uses.

PA-18-3: Prompt Release of Public Financial Disclosure Reports

This program advisory reminds DAEOs of their obligation to promptly make available copies of public financial disclosure reports filed with their agency.

PA-19-04: Data Call: Agency Ethics Program Contact Information

Among other required information, agencies must provide OGE with a monitored email address, mailing address, and/or fax number for individuals seeking to request ethics documents, such as public financial disclosure reports. OGE publishes this information on the Agency Ethics Program Contact Information page.

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Resources

National Archives & Records Administration Transmittal No. 26, General Records Schedule 2.8: Employee Ethics Records (2016)

This records schedule is issued by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Ethics officials should be familiar with the destruction schedule, which applies to records agencies create relating to their own ethics programs. See also the NARA’s accompanying FAQ.

Government-wide Systems of Records Notices

This page contains links to OGE/GOVT–1 and OGE/GOVT–2. These Systems of Records Notices (SORNs) cover public and confidential financial disclosure reports, as well as agency supplemental or alternative confidential report forms. These SORNS also cover other name-retrieved ethics program records.

A Privacy Primer for Agency Ethics Officials

This session provided an overview of the recent changes to the two OGE Government wide Privacy Act systems of records. The session discussed basic privacy concepts and touched on best practices for ethics officials dealing with privacy issues.

Transparency and the Public Trust: The Disclosure of Ethics Records under the FOIA (slides and handouts only)

This session provided an overview of the disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA) and agencies’ responsibilities thereunder. It included a practical look at how OGE processes EIGA disclosure requests.

Ethics Records: The Release of Ethics Documents under the FOIA, the Privacy Act, and the EIGA

This session provided an overview of the intersection of the three laws, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA), and the Privacy Act, that govern the release of ethics documents and discussed what agency ethics officials need to know about complying with them.


Agency Practices

As the supervising ethics office, OGE has insight into the methods, procedures, and practices of over 130 agency ethics programs and seeks to highlight these practices as a resource for improving ethics programs across the executive branch. The following practices are gathered from OGE program reviews, agency responses to Annual Agency Ethics Program Questionnaires and data calls, and OGE summits and conferences. While no single approach is one-size-fits-all, ethics officials may find other agencies’ practices useful to the effective and efficient administration of their own ethics program.

  • Institute a system for timely and transparent responses to requests for copies of public financial disclosure reports and other specified records
  • Educate agency FOIA officials about considerations specific to ethics documents
  • Communicate clearly and proactively with requesters
  • Know which records and information collected and maintained by your ethics program are protected by the Privacy Act
  • Familiarize yourself with your agency’s Privacy Act regulations
  • Consult the FOIA and/or privacy office before making disclosures beyond those required by section 105 of the EIGA
  • Coordinate with your agency’s legislative affairs office when making disclosures to Members of Congress
  • Coordinate with your agency’s privacy office and/or agency counsel to ensure a proper accounting of disclosures whenever making disclosures from OGE/GOVT-1 or OGE/GOVT-2
  • Direct employees to the most recent version of OGE forms on OGE’s website
  • Ensure that all electronic filing systems and alternative forms that collect information have updated Privacy Act statements in compliance with the Privacy Act
  • Consult with your agency’s privacy office and/or agency counsel about whether Privacy Act statements are necessary when collecting information from individuals in other situations, including through oral exchanges.